Monday, December 24, 2012

Generosity or Manipulation??

Multiple choice:  Do I give to the homeless family at the shelter because:

A.  It's a tax deduction
B.  The head trustee for the shelter is in my line of business and will think well of me
C. I get warm fuzzies
D. They need it
E.  God will see and reward me
F.  God has already given me so much and it's my privilege to use it for His purposes

Here's a few hints:

8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. II Corinthians 9:8

The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that. Proverbs 29:25

Acts 4:36-5:11


As you might have guessed, the answers get better as you go down the list, and the best answer is the last one.  Jesus gives partial credit for E--He never seems to criticize the disciples when they ask Him, "What's in it for me?" 

Even need alone is not sufficient motivation for our generosity (answer D).  When Mary anointed Jesus' feet with costly perfume and Judas complained, Jesus responded that the poor will always have needs.  It's easy to fall into a trap of over-helping and further handicapping those who already have issues. 

The difference between codependency and Godly generosity is in the motivation.  Staying connected to the vine--dwelling in His presence--will provide enough gratitude to give sacrifically.  Anything less is going to result in a selfish motivation, manipulation and disappointment. 

If you can only get to answer D, then you probably should still go ahead and give, serve or help, knowing that you still need to get further down the list.  He can do better through you...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Where do you set your mind?

Tonight, the pastor mentioned Romans 8 and during the sermon, I copied a good chunk of it in my journal.  I need to do that more often.  I see different things that way...

My reading of late has focused on keeping the presence of God and His will in my mind in a state of continual worship.  A couple of verses caught my attention:

"5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace."

My son, PJ, often has an issue with perseverating.  Perseverating is when your mind, thoughts and talk all get stuck on one subject, over and over again.  For PJ, it could be a video game, could be legos, or how much he hates school, but everything always comes back to that one topic.  If this passage is to be believed, it's not what your mind naturally moves toward that matters--it's where you choose, over and over again, to set your mind.  And where you choose to set your mind makes a big difference in outcome. 

As we finished the service, we had communion.  When it came to the cup, PJ and I talked about what it is and why it's important.  See, God said that the Israelites were never to drink blood because the life of the animal is in the blood.  Yet, Jesus gave his disciples the 3rd cup of passover to represent His blood that we take within ourselves as a symbol of how His life comes into us and becomes a part of us.  Romans 8 goes on to say:

10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

The Holy Spirit is there to give life to your mortal body by bringing your thoughts back to Him--to life.  The mind set of the flesh leads to a life of death and hostility, while the Spirit sets our minds on the pathway to life and peace.  

PJ pointed out that it's grape juice (not blood) that we have in our little cups.  As I flipped through the scripture, the passage where Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches flashed in front of me.  The life of the vine is in the sap, which becomes the juice within us, just like the blood is our life, within the vine, the juice is it's life and produce.  The point of that passage is that we can do nothing--we have no life within us--unless we are connected to the vine.  Setting our minds on the things of the Spirit is the way we stay connected continually to the vine.  

So what are you thinking? 

Monday, December 10, 2012

A disturbance in the force...

Ok, I have to admit, the new-age gobbledygook that came with Star Wars is fun to play with sometimes...

"I love you..."  "I know."

"May the force be with you."

"He will bring unity to the force."

Only the truly geeky among us will recognize all of these. 

As Christians we can laugh, even mockingly at this silliness.  The Holy Spirit that lives and moves within us is no impersonal force--he is personality incarnate.  One of the most powerful arguments for God is the argument from personality and relationship.  Randomness is by definition impersonal.  How can a vibrantly personal human being emerge from an impersonal system?  It's like trying to watercolor with only black and white.  One could hint at color, but it would never become the vibrancy we see within the full spectrum.  The classic framing of this argument is that you could posit the existence of water from the design of a fish, even if you had never seen water before.  The fish himself would cry out for water even he had never experienced it and had been kept alive in some other way because he was made for it.  In the same way, we were made for relationship with something transcendent and even if we never directly experienced that relationship, we would cry out for it instinctively. 

Back to the disturbance...This weekend, I was forced to admit the difficulty of the personal situations in my life right now.  It was unsettling to do so but I need his help with the repercussions of what's going on.  The pain of the admission made it difficult to worship Saturday night.  It was difficult to re-enter into the joy of the Father's presence and trust Him for His merciful provision in the middle of my pain.  I have often told others that God will not speak over the screaming in our own hearts and I still believe this is true.  It took time to calm myself but like David said, "I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." (Ps 27:13).  Settling into that confidence can be challenging at times.  This morning, the Father reminded me of how hard I had worked to refocus on Him that night and encouraged me for the effort.  Practicing the Presence of God is difficult, particularly when circumstances are hard. 

I want to remind you (and myself) that He is there with us in the struggle, even before we feel Him.  Just because you are disturbed doesn't mean He is.  Of course, the opposite is true as well--just because we excuse ourselves doesn't mean He is pleased.  We have to continually go back to Him to get His evaluation of us.  Even in His disappointment, there is joy for Him and for us in running back to Him. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Timing...

It seems like at the beginning and end of the day I feel so close to my Father.  Things get quiet and it's easiest to hear His heartbeat.  That quiet time with Him throughout the day is so critical to me.  It's not generally planned, but it usually includes a lot of talking together with an open Bible. 

I'm working so hard to feel His closeness throughout the day as well.  It's hard to get that kind of focus on Him, but when I spend the time with Him in the morning and evening, it's easier to understand His perspective throughout the day.  For me, I don't spend a lot of time interceding for others during my quiet time.  Most of the time I spend praying for others is throughout the day.  He brings people to mind at times and I immediately rest them before Him.  We talk about it together and He shows me what to ask about. 

I have other tools that help me pray consistently over a long period of time, but even for those, I want for Him to guide what I request.  Keeping Him close all day keeps my heart in line with His heart.  I have found that I really can't pray very well for things He doesn't want. He just doesn't give me the power to pray that way.  The Holy Spirit really does pray through me when I don't know what to say, just like scripture tells us He will. 

A lot of people that want to intercede for others.  In the end, the power to see God's work come to pass horizontally comes from the quality of that vertical relationship.  This includes the desire to obey and walk in His character as dearly loved children do.  It begins with a consistent pattern of seeking Him morning and evening. I can't say I'm perfect at it.  I do miss Him more often than I would prefer, but the effort pays big dividends. 

What can you do to make that a reality? 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What does "praying without ceasing" look like?

I'm still working on the Prayer Lab workbook.  I'm doing background research on several historical figures that have really tried to pray continually.  This is so cool and inspiring.  Over the last few days I've been reading the journals of Frank Laubach, a lingust from the early 1900's.  Take a look at a few quotes:

"But this year I have started out trying to live all my waking moments in conscious listening to the inner voice, asking without ceasing, “What, Father, do you desire said? What, Father, do you desire done this minute?”

I am feeling God in each movement, by an act of will—willing that He shall direct these fingers that now strike this typewriter—willing that He shall pour through my steps as I walk—willing that He shall direct my words as I speak, and my very jaws as I eat!

I feel simply carried along each hour, doing my part in a plan which is far beyond myself. This sense of cooperation with God in little things is what so astonishes me, for I never have felt it this way before. I need something, and turn round to find it waiting for me. I must work, to be sure, but there is God working along with me. To know this gives a sense of security and assurance for the future which is also new to my life. I seem to have to make sure of only one thing now, and every other thing “takes care of itself,” or I prefer to say what is more true, God takes care of all the rest. My part is to live this hour in continuous inner conversation with God and in perfect responsiveness to His will, to make this hour gloriously rich. This seems to be all I need think about.

But why do I constantly harp upon this inner experience? Because I feel convinced that for me and for you who read there lie ahead undiscovered continents of spiritual living compared with which we are infants in arms. And I must witness that people outside are treating me differently. Obstacles which I once would have regarded as insurmountable are melting away like a mirage. People are becoming friendly who suspected or neglected me.

I feel, I feel like one who has had his violin out of tune with the orchestra and at last is in harmony with the music of the universe. As for me, I never lived, I was half dead, I was a rotting tree, until I reached the place where I wholly, with utter honesty, resolved and then re-resolved that I would find God’s will, and I would do that will though every fiber in me said no, and I would win the battle in my thoughts."

Laubach, Frank (2007-12-31). Letters by a Modern Mystic (p. 10). Purposeful Design Publications. Kindle Edition.

If this doesn't encourage your heart to try it,  I can't think of much more that would.  Check him out.  It gets even better.  Laubach is well known in literacy circles because of his "Each one, teach one" literacy method.  It has literally taught millions around the world to read.  His work was amazing in its own right and flowed right out of his relationship with God. 

There are a few others that I'm including as well, like Brother Laurence and Madame Guyon.  All three Christians are amazing examples.  Jesus lived this way and so few have really even tried it.  It's about time to take that command seriously--It's hard, maybe impossible, but I'll die trying. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Conducting our Prayer Time...

One of the books I've been reading as background research for the Prayer Lab is Transformation Prayer by Daniel Henderson (oops, I almost wrote Transportation Prayer...).  One of the cooler little nuggets from the book is a pattern for prayer using the conducting pattern for 4/4 time.  It follows the pattern of the Lord's model prayer and provides a visual memory device to help you order your prayer time in a way that honors God.  Here's the picture:
1.  Prayer starts with the heart facing upward in worship toward a God who is due our reverence and awe.  If it's tough to get up there, it may take an active movement from our circumstances to that position and grattitude cannot fail to get us to that position of worship.  He reveals Himself to us, high and lifted up and full of the Glory He so rightly deserves. We see His attributes, His greatness. 

2.  From there our prayer moves downward to our world in our response, because God's revelation always demands a response from us.  We see our sin and failures in the light of His character and we repent, recognizing our need for a saviour, redeemer and restorer.  Because we have seen Him clearly, we can rightly see our own world from His perspective.  That moves us to...

3. A desperate understanding of our need for His intervention.  Since we started from an understanding of who God is and we now understand His perspective, our needs look vastly different than they did when we approached God first.  We need the power to obey.  We need changed hearts and minds.  Aunt Edna's kidney stones becomes an opportunity for me to love her in deeds, not just words and an opportunity for Aunt Edna to seek the Father in her illness. 

4.  We also need to power to correct the injustice and wrongs in this world.  As we have asked for God's intervention in our own needs, He points out the things that we must address to meet those needs.  Sometimes that just means waiting on His provision.  More often, that means moving out into spiritual warfare and acts of sacrifical service.  Our hearts are now ready to move with Him into battle, protected by His grace and a will that has been submitted fully to the Father. 

Our time with the Father has now left us with a deep sense of His power and presence in our everyday lives.  We are again in awe of the God who is here with us but at the same time in complete control of the universe. 

Take a closer look at the Lord's prayer (Luke 11) and see how it aligns with this pattern.  This type of praying will utterly transform your relationship with God, not because it's a cool tool, but because this is how Jesus taught us to pray. 

Try it out and let me know how it goes...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Break over...

I didn't intend for that break to be so long.  Every time I think I'm getting back to normal something gets in the way, so I am just not going to let anything get in the way. 

Over the last month I've started a workbook for the Prayer Lab course I was planning to teach two years ago.  The Father has been showing me such neat things along the way.  It's intended to be an overview course, but since good theology leads to good practice, there's no way to do an overview without a bunch of heavy lifting, scripturally.  I've been genuinely surprised by this.  The going has been slow, but it's good stuff.  The Spirit has even reordered the book at least once (maybe twice) and added several chapters.  So far it looks like 8 weeks of solid work, but a bunch of the topics are not mainstream--or at least I haven't seen them in print very frequently.  Of course that may be why the going is so slow.  Any time you work on something that will help people pray effectively, the enemy won't be happy. 

One of the biggest things that is hard to get across is that God Himself is worthy of being sought, not just his gifts.  This is fundamental both to communicating with God and interceeding for others.  All effective prayer starts with a look up, to revel in the greatness, majesty and wonder of God.  I'll have more to write about this over the next few weeks, but it's a great place to start if you feel distant from Him or just tired.  Nothing lifts my spirits like a breath of praise--it is truly a breath of fresh air in the staleness of my life.  Even the cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy..." is enough to drop my stress level about 20 notches. 

Try it...

"Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come."

Feel better?  I do...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Enforced Rest



Yes, it's been a week since I posted anything.  This weekend my son had a Boy Scout camping trip and I went with him.  The stars were stunningly spectacular.  The kids had a blast.  I thought I rested.  Turns out my body didn't agree with me on that one. 

I arrived home with arms and legs of lead.  I've been working to get exercise into my days, but it's nothing like the 1/4 mile trip to the bathroom at the campsite.  We packed well and were well prepared for most of what Florida can throw at you, but Sunday morning, the temps were in the low 40's and I awoke to neck spasms.  (By the way, you can make hot packs from wet towels placed on top of an old-fashioned Coleman lantern.)

I didn't have time to rest much when I got home that day either.  By Monday, the cold and the extra exercise had me in a full blown Fibromyalgia flare up.  Every muscle and nerve in my entire body screamed at me.  I dragged out of bed and got Kate to school, but PJ wasn't feeling great either so we just stayed home.  I rested most of Monday and Tuesday, including a visit to my prayer partner for a massage.  Today, I asked God if I could get back to stuff (I really am a go-getter) and He said maybe tomorrow.   I'm cleared to do some writing and thinking, but not much more.  I would love to jump up and go finish my garden bed. It's almost done.  Instead, I'll go to church again tonight, but it's going to be slow going. 

I hate this.  More than once, my Lord has accused me of becoming a human doing rather than a human being.  I've always measured my self-worth by what I've accomplished.  I've stubbornly pushed my heart and mind to their limits, ignoring my body for years.  When He tenderly stops me, I chafe at His direction and discipline.  In the end, He has had to use pain to get me to recognize the folly of my frantic activity.  To Him, my value is not contingent on what I do and if necessary, He will make me unable to do anything to prove it. 

I laid in bed this morning and asked, "What can I do now?"  He said, "Pray and rest."  I am slowly learning that the rest preceeds action--the Hebrew day starts at sundown; the Christian week starts with our rest day; the Christian era started with Christ's death--the most passive repose a human could take.  It is during our rest that He acts on our behalf, preparing the way for the good works He has planned in advance for us to do.  To skip the rest is to skip ahead of His preparation.  Most importantly, it is in quiet and rest that He comes and shows us Himself.  I have climbed ladders as fast as I could only to find that the ladder rested on the wrong building.  When we rest with Him, He makes sure the ladder we climb is the one He picked out for us.  Our warfare become effective rather than shadowboxing. 

I don't know if He will ever heal me.  I hope I learn the lesson well enough that He can.  In the meantime, He has made space in my life for the unforced rhythms of His grace.  I trust His provision. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Unexpected refreshment...

There are days when it seems like life is a wilderness and you have nothing before you but a barren dessert.  The last week or so has felt like that.  I know the way forward.  It is clear but difficult and lonely. 

I set aside yesterday to pray about it.  As I did, my gentle Father reminded me of the massage appointment in the middle of the day.  It has been our one remaining splurge and with two people in chronic low-level back pain, it's less of a luxury than a needed maintenance.  The Lord instructed me to ask her to join me as I prayed.  I explained the situation to her and we began to pray as she continued working on me.  This humble message therapist morphed into an intercessory giant before my eyes.  Her prayers joined with mine and were ferverent and Holy Spirit directed.  As she prayed, the Spirit provided new directions to ask and encouragement beyond what I could have imagined.  The Holy Spirit even used her to remind me of the work I need to be doing to publish some of what I've already written.  I left refreshed in body and spirit, with encouragement to stand strong and focus.  Before I went, I had a way in the wilderness, but I left washed and satisfied by rivers in the desert.  I have often been skeptical about the spiritual implications of message therapy--it is frequently bathed in new-age mysticism, but this was a new old thing.  She truly "laid hands on me and anointed me with oil" and had the spiritual maturity to do so as an elder.  We confessed sin and much was healed. 

I have wondered what to focus on, and this morning it became clear.  There is a lot of pain in my life and it's hard right now to see above it.  I awoke this morning with peace and praise in my heart, seeing nothing but Jesus' love for me and my overwhelming love for Him.  It has been a quiet and productive morning.  Where things could have been tense, God's presence made me complete and content. 

Thank You, Father.  You truly make all things new.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Suffering Myths 2--Exemptions...

Jeremiah, by Rembrant
Myth 2:  Committed Christians don't really suffer.  God either organizes their circumstances for the best or miraculously lifts them up so they can walk above it.

Malarky.

First, if God organizes our circumstances for our best then that will include growth opportunities, which will, by definition, include growing pains.  Childbirth hurts (believe me, my son PJ can tell you I know that all too well: he gets reminders often that he was worth all 32 hours)--and those are just the good things that hurt.  Pain is a gift that teaches us how not to injure ourselves or others.  That's why leprosy causes such devastation--leprosy deadens pain nerves and the patient destroys their own body without knowing it.  If you're alive, you're going to have pain. 

As for living above our circumstances, that's only partly true.  He does promise He will never leave or forsake us--that He will be with us, even to the end of the earth.  There was a time when I was really angry at God because I could feel how close He was to me, but I remained in debilitating pain and agonizing depression.  His love was just as real as my pain.  David, Jeremiah, Paul, and many others often cried out in tremendous pain--we know because their cries are critical passages within the Bible.  David often models the furious dance that acknowledges both extreme pain and God's glorious presence.  Jesus himself wept many times and was identified as a "man of sorrows, aquainted with grief."  Would God lift us above the pain from which He did not protect Himself? 

To the contrary, Jesus says:  "33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”--John 16:33. 

A corrolary to this myth is that pain and suffering happens because of sin in our lives--also frequently malarky.  There are times when sin brings about painful consequences for us and those around us.  There are times we are blameless and suffering is just a result of the fallen world we live in.  There are times when, like Job, we suffer as a part of the spiritual battles that rage unseen around us.  There are times when God directly sends suffering into our paths as a tool to refine and change us. 

In the end, the question of "Why?" is less important than the question: "To what end?".  When we begin to try to partner with God through the pain, He redeems it as only He can--and the results can be so beautiful that it looks like God intended it, even when it's just His work-around.  In this way, every pain, every sorrow, every bit of suffering becomes an opportunity to display the glory of a God who can spin worthless, scratchy straw into gold. 

If you are still alive, you will have suffering.  Don't waste it. 


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Suffering myth 1...

This morning one of our pastors, Jimmy Knott, preached on myths of trials.  He included one of my favorite pet-peeves.  Well meaning people will say silly things like, "God will never give you more than you can handle." 

I am here to tell you right now that this old saying is patently untrue.  First of all, life happens and we are not always up to it.  For a Christian, circumstances must first go through the fingers of our Heavenly Father, but He lets a lot through.  My dear friend, Steve Brown, has said in the past, "It may seem cold-hearted, but I believe that every time a pagan gets cancer, a Christian gets cancer so the world can see the difference."  Years ago, I made the choice that building the Kingdom of Heaven was worthy of my life and the lives of everyone I know and love.  Don't get me wrong, it's hard when your kid has a debilitating disorder or you have to face hardships, but if it brings Glory to God, that's what we're here for.  We don't get out of this alive anyway. 

God WILL intentionally give His adopted children far more than they can handle.  He expects us to do what He does and that is a lot more than we can do.  The Truth is that He will not give us more than HE can handle.  Part of why we're still here is to learn how to trust Him, rely on Him and work beside Him doing His work.  I Peter 1:7 tells is that the testing of our faith is more precious than purified gold and will bring the Father praise and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.  I want Him to be proud of me more than anything.  He's not going to be proud of me doing what I can take credit for.  He's going to be proud of things He does through me--only what He does lasts anyway. 

I can say for sure that the parents I've met with disabled or injured kids are really amazing folks.  I can also tell you pretty confidently that they didn't start out that way.  I wasn't called to be the mom of a child with Down syndrome or ADHD.  I was called to be Katie's mom and PJ's mom.  They have those disorders, so we address those issues one day at a time with God's direction, healing and planning.  He builds us up to the tasks before us as we rely on Him.  As I pray, the Lord sends strength, stamina and solutions.   I didn't get those things before I had the need.  I got them when I needed them.  I can share the solutions He has provided to spread God's Glory and so others will have what they need when they need it.  In the end, the best things I've gotten from all of this was the chance to know Him better.  That alone has been worth it. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

More than enough...

There was a time when I was in High School that I made a fatal error.  I was at the height of enjoying my Heavenly Father.  Ministry stuff was going great.  I was beginning to take college classes.  Despite all that was going right, my heart ached and I couldn't place why.  I wasn't a loner, but I was lonely.  I cried out to God one night that He wasn't enough--I needed people in my life.  What my heart was saying was that I needed a man in my life.  My dad was busy as a schoolteacher and I just didn't feel treasured by anyone.  Every woman needs someone to tell her she is beautiful, but instead of going to my Heavenly Father to meet that need, I assessed Him as inadequate to it.  I reasoned if it wasn't good for man to be alone, then how could a "derived creature" like woman be good alone. 

What came next was predictable.  Like the Israelites who demanded a King, God gave me what I asked for.  In His graciousness, He gave me a good man on the whole, but even a good man makes a terrible god.  He constantly demanded I prove my love for him and took great pleasure in pushing me farther and farther every time we met.  This continued into our marriage and became the nightmare anyone could have predicted.  He is still a good man but he is also still a terrible god.  He has wounds of his own and my need for a minor deity has often kept me from adequately tending to his wounds or holding him accountable for his own healing. 

Over the last year, I have renounced that vow within my own heart.  Jesus is indeed more than enough for me and any time I am tempted to think otherwise, I push harder into Him.  I continually find He is more than sufficient for my needs.  He reminds me that in His eyes, I am beautifully perfect and that He is perfecting all that concerns me.  He tells me that He has loved me with an everlasting love and that He has drawn me with unfailing kindness to HimselfHe rejoices over me with singing.  He has written my name in the palm of His hand. 

It's hard to dethrone a god.  Subtle fears and devotions must give way.  Rather than blindly doing all that he wants, no questions asked, I have to make choices about who I am going to honor.  I have to respond as a servant but an equal and a joint-heir to the inheritance of salvation.  I have to speak up when I am hurt rather than cow-tow or placate. 

Make no mistake.  It was my need for something that my husband could never be that placed us in such a horrible position.  We've been together for a quarter of a century and we won't get free of this problem overnight but we will get free. 

Father, I thank You for being my God.  Only You are sufficient to the task.  I again renounce any other gods I have placed before You and lay my heart at Your feet.  I trust You completely with my life. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Group Rules

Last night I started a class on the Connected Child.  It's about how to connect well and provide a healthy environment for kids (or adults) from hard places.  We were created to connect, but emotional connection is unbelievably difficult for many.  We instinctively reach out for others, but without someone to reach back, we don't learn connection.  It takes two to tango.

One of the things I found compelling were the class/group rules the teacher introduced near the middle of the class:

1.  Stick Together
2.  No Hurts
3.  Have Fun

The elegant simplicity of these rules belies their profound universality--(wow).  In a nutshell, these summarize and flesh out the second great command:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  The point of the group is to connect and learn connection, so we have to stick together.  We can't hang in together if we intentionally or carelessly hurt each other and we won't stick together if we aren't actively working toward having fun together. 

I'm going to find a way to post this in my home as the new home rules. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Choosing your focus...

"1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."  Colossians 3:1-4

"4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal."  Is 26:4


 Circumstances are the most distracting things in the world and attitude is absolutely crucial in the middle of a battleground.  Because we are called by God to be conformed to the image of His son, we are in a battleground.  Our enemy's primary targets are our children, our marriages, our calling. 

This morning, (for that matter, this whole week) has been a struggle, and the battleground has been in my mind.  It's a battle to decide whether I'll be looking at the pain of my circumstances or the provision of My Lord.  This time it truly is a heart battle.  It's about my attitude.  Do I believe I am loved or that I am useless?  Who do I believe? 

What I believe is dependent on where I focus.  This morning, my Father's message was "Watch Me."  There have been moments today that were hard, moments that were productive.  In the end, He wins a little more each day.  It's good enough for now. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Satisfaction and multitasking...

"Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare."   “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord.  9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty,  but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."  Is 55:2-3, 9-11.

It should not be amazing to me that God desires our deep satisfaction.  If anything it should amaze me that we are tolerant of so small a satisfaction.  What struck me this morning is that in the same chapter that the Lord chides us for our petty desires and offers to satisfy us fully, He also points out that everything He does multitasks by its very nature.  His solutions are what engineers call "elegant,"-- they accomplish many different things within one process or action and each accomplishment benefits the whole. 

Of course, my immediate thought had to do with simplifying my life.  As Alton Brown says, I only have one unitasker in my kitchen:  the fire extinguisher.  Having multiple purposes for everything means having less, or at least it should. 

Still, as the passage says, His ways and thoughts are higher than my ways.  I blurted out to him this morning, "This is why I keep asking You to do all You do."  At that point, He stopped me dead in my tracks.  He said, "No, you've never asked that before.  Ask it again."  I instantly realized that I have been asking to see what God can do, but I have never asked to see ALL that He can do.  I've been overwhelmed with what I have seen.  I'm a little afraid, but since He directed me to ask it, this is my prayer (and you can pray it with me, if you dare):

Lord, I would like You to do all that You can do with us, with our family, our home, our church, our community, our country, our world, Your kingdom.  We need Your grace for this.  We cannot do those things.  Only You can.  

Let me know what He does. You know I"ll keep you updated.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My provider

Yesterday, I had a meltdown in the middle of the day.  No one was here.  I needed to consult with PJ's therapy director but I just couldn't bear the weight of my pain anymore.  I usually do pretty well in general.  I know the path I'm on.  It's not an easy one, but I know my life is going in the right direction.  I'm walking in obedience and it's just a matter of being disciplined enough to stay on the path.  Unfortunately, my dreams at night tend to trip me up a bit.  That's when I have to come face to face with the pain of this path in ways I can't blow off.  So I had a meltdown.

As I laid in my bed in the agony of brokenheartedness, the phone rang.  That meant that I had to get up.  The Lord sent a good friend to comfort and encourage me.  She knows the struggles I face.  She knows how painful they are.  She called just to listen and encourage.  It was important to know that I am not alone.  It didn't change the path.  It didn't eliminate the pain, but it did help me recenter on Jesus and carry on. 

After my friend picked me up off the floor, I was able to meet with PJ's therapy director who helped me prioritize his work and moved me forward in getting him help.  Last night, PJ had great victories to tell me about from school.  This morning there was a small crack in the issues that hurt me the most.  Even my dog came and gave me big sloppy kisses to comfort my heart.  One of my morning devotionals was right to the point as well, reminding me that until I get the core issue dealt with, these things will remain unbearable.  The catch is that the core issue isn't my issue, so all I can do to deal with it is continue to choose to starve it out, like starving out a cancer, until the Father can be allowed to remove it surgically. 

Sometimes the way we have to walk is not going to be easy.  James tells us:

"2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."--James 1:2-4

Ginny Owens once said in reference to this verse: "So there's going to come a day when I don't lack anything?!?  Well, it's not now!"  I'm not there yet either, but He promises we will get there.  In the meantime, my great Provider gives me all it takes to perservere. 

Thanks, Father!




Sunday, September 30, 2012

More than we could ask or imagine...

"20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."--Eph 3:20-21

This weekend we had a "Not Alone" baptism at Church!  We've been praying for weeks for this weekend.  Last night we baptized 37.  This morning, in the second service there were more than 150 who signed up and got in line for baptism--it's still going on.  I have no idea how many came in the earlier service.  They set up 4 horse troughs on the stage and they should have set up 20.  It's hard not to cry for each and every one.  One man just confessed that Jesus healed him of cancer in the last two weeks (we happen to be in a sermon series on miracles).  Many of them confess their adoracion for Jesus in Spanish.  What a delight! 

Each one stood to say they were not ashamed of Jesus and that the people who stood beside them had "held their rope" just like the 4 men who dropped their paralyzed friend through the roof for Jesus to heal them.  There is no better testimony--that's what Baptism is all about!

Last night, I stood as a counselor when they invited people to come for baptism even if they hadn't planned to do it.  We even had clothes for all of them.  So last night, I met a new friend.  She has been praying about getting baptized for months.  She was even thinking about going to Atlanta to be baptized since she watches Andy Stanley on TV all the time.  The Lord told her to come last night.  She had no idea that baptism was all we were doing last night.  Before the service, I had prayed for more to come, spontaneously.  I prayed through until the Lord said to get up, that they were on the way.  Gotta love the way He works. 

I just watched a an adult woman with Down syndrome praise God in Spanish.  How cool!!  We're still watching it stream on the computer and it's noon.  They're inviting more. 

Our admin pastor had included these baptisms on his prayer list a few weeks ago.  He asked me to pray for 75 baptisms through the weekend.  He easily tripled that number.  What an amazing opportunity to see God work!  Definately, "immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine."

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Don't stop praying too early...

A dear friend of mine is near the end of getting out of some serious financial trouble.  Her debt is going down, quickly, but those last little bits are getting to her.  She's mostly out of money and having to hold the line with her kids and it's hard.  God has done amazing things to get her here, but today--so close to the finish line--she was overwhelmed with a lack of peace about it that she couldn't explain.

As we talked through it, it was clear that at the pace God has been working, she would be free by the end of next week but she's got several things she needs to do and needs to do now.  As we prayed and talked together, this is what popped out of my mouth:

"God doesn't answer our presumption.  He answers our prayers."

She has been walking in trust and gratitude.  God has been steadily providing.  We both know He will provide eventually, but the lack of peace in her spirit is an evidence that God is not satisfied with meeting her need in a "run of the mill," "due course of time" way.  There must be something else going on.  God loves to provide in a spectacular way that leads to His Glory.  I fully expect God will wipe the debt out today as she prays. 

Too many Christians ask God once and assume that it's enough.  We are in a dynamic relationship with God.  Jesus encouraged us to perservere in prayer until we get an answer from Him.  That doesn't always mean we see the result, but it does mean that we perservere until He gives us the witness of the Holy Spirit's peace that He has provided all that He desires to provide.  At that point, there is no more need to pray, but until that point, there is danger in stopping.  Remember the time that Elisha told the King to strike the ground as a witness of how he will go out and strike his enemies:

18 Then he said, “Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground.” So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times. 19 But the man of God was angry with him. “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” he exclaimed. “Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.”--II Kings 13:18-19

I get the feeling from the way Elisha responded that the King should have known better but wasn't paying attention.  If God has more for us, then it's important to keep asking until we have gotten to where He wants our heart and not a step shy of that.  He loves us too much to let us be at peace until we are there.  Don't ignore that. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Blind people...

“But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” 1 Corinthians 2:14 NLT

When was the last time you got frustrated because someone just doesn't get it?  God does things that are amazing and nothing you can do or say can get them to see it from that perspective.  This verse sheds some light on the issue.  You can't expect a blind man to see.  It takes the eyes of the Spirit to see spiritual things.  New ager's often talk of enlightenment and spirituality, but all they can see is the deception of the enemy.  To some extent you can't fault them for their blindness.  Jesus encountered this:

39 Jesus then said, “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.”
40 Some Pharisees overheard him and said, “Does that mean you’re calling us blind?”
 41 Jesus said, “If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure.”--John 9:39-42(MSG)

He's willing to give them credit that they don't get it, but since they claim they do, that credit is useless--partly because in their arrogance, they won't be able to ask for real sight or accept His help to understand.  It's ok if they can't see because He came to help them see.  It's not ok to refuse to see.

In the same way, it's ok if someone doesn't get it yet.  The answer is to pray for God to open the eyes of their Spirit (and He will.)  On the other hand, if they just don't want to get it, that's a different matter.  At that point, Jesus just lets them stay in their blindness--until they are uncomfortable enough there to want something more. 

I'd be careful here, because as children of our Heavenly Father, we are called to bless and not to curse--and we don't know what will break their arrogance.  We really don't know what will break our own arrogance.  I pray that the Lord is gentle with me in this regard so I want Him to be gentle with them as well.  When Jacob wrestled with God, God knew exactly where to touch to disable Jacob's defenses.  To me it seems like the best way to pray is that the Lord contend with them until they can yield to Him, and continue to serve them as best we can. 

The frustration of dealing with stubborn people (including my own stubbornness) is what grinds us down--like adding a beautiful bevel to a piece of glass so that it is fit to go into a stained glass window.  The process hurts, but the result is patient endurance that reflects the Father's patience.

I want that (sorta).


Thursday, September 27, 2012

This decade's prayer

Letting go into a leap of faith...
Over the last decade, I've had the same prayer:

"Lord, I know I'm capable of a lot, but it is nothing in comparison to what You can do.  What I can do will never be enough.  I need You to do what You can do." 

I was born with great abilities.  My biggest struggle growing up has been figuring out the difference between what I could do and what I should do.  I have a better idea at 42 of what God has called me to, but mostly I've given up looking for a calling.  I do what the Lord says to do (as well as I can).  I trust Him and He leads me.  He sends me work.  He sends me people to pray for and tells me what to pray.  He hears me when I call, calms my fears and quiets me with His love.  He is amazing and I look forward to an eternity of exploring the depths of His presence. 

In the meantime, in answer to my prayer, He has placed me more than once in the position where I couldn't do anything.  He has lead me directly into situations that were beyond my capability to complete and left me hanging, waiting for Him to do what only He could do.  It hasn't stopped being frustrating.  It also hasn't stopped being amazing. 

For instance, my body doesn't do what it used to.  My kids take more attention.  So, I lost my job--the job He provided.  He pushed me almost immediately into creating a company.  It was almost 6 months before I had any work for my company, but in the meantime He provided good research work through UF and increased my husband's income by about 25%.  (He's having to learn to trust too).  I keep having to do things I don't think I can do and He keeps making up the difference. 

I don't trust in my own abilities to do anything of any consequence any more.  Only the work He does lasts--or even works for that matter.  Obedience isn't as much of a chore, it is the key to a spectactular adventure.  I can't wait each day to see what He's going to do next.  As with any other adventure, it's not always safe, but He's good and trustworthy. 

I don't know what's next, but I know Him and that's enough...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Generational faith...

My mom is here this week.  I'm really enjoying having her here and she's working hard on PJ's program with him (adding some things).  PJ's really enjoying her too.  I'm driven and focused.  Mom believes devoutly in the value of play--particularly regarding therapy.  I'll get there eventually. 

It reminds me of Timothy's family:

"5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you."  II Tim 1:5

Poor PJ has been buried in his mom and grandma's therapy demands for several days.  He's also been buried in our faith.  Love that.  He doesn't know how blessed he is (I hope). 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Waiting

I don't know what to write today...
Lord, what will You provide for others?  I will wait.


Yesterday was not the first time that I have sat awaiting the Lord.  There have been days that all I knew was that His presence was real and at rest, but that I was to await His priorities.  It is a still feeling.  A calmness ensues; an eager expectancy that awaits His work.  It is accompanied by another understanding--a deep, disquiet about moving out of the position He has placed me. 

This understanding has come at a great cost.   Far too many times, I have disregarded His direction to my great dismay.  The consequences have been dire.  When I act during the time I should be waiting, it is only because I don't fully trust God to act and that is disaster--just ask Sarah and Abraham. 

The acronym PUSH is so appropriate--Pray Until Something Happens.  My grandmother used to tell us, "Don't move anything you haven't first moved with prayer."  If nothing else, as we try to move the world back to something upright before Him, it is His job to align us in the position that will be the most effective.   A boulder resting at the top of a hill will move with only a small push if it comes from the right position.  Pushing it sideways won't do much and it might be hard to find just the right place on a very large boulder.    Within the process of waiting and praying, I often find that my prayers dramatically change.  What I first asked for would have been wholly inappropriate, but God reordered my prayers during the time I waited. 

Wait upon the Lord...He is worth the wait.

Defending God

Ok, I've stayed out of the political fray for a long time.  I'm still not jumping in very far, but I do have an observation...

It is ironic to me to see how vigorously the Muslims defend their god. In the last two weeks there have been riots and calls for people's heads regarding a film that attacks Mohammed and Islam.

Our God brooks no defense for He needs none. All insults will irrevocably be erased and not by us, but the ultimate revelation of Who He Was, Is and always Will Be. Any defense we could attempt would be laughable in the light of who He is--like little Lucy holding up a sword at an army. They may laugh at Lucy, but the Lion behind her is no laughing matter.


In the same way, He teaches us not to defend ourselves: 

38 You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

43 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  --Matthew 5:38-43

19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.--Romans 12:19

These are hard things to receive as long as I am building my own kingdom or trying to provide for my own needs.  When I'm focused on building His Kingdom and functioning as His ambassador and a dearly loved child of the King of Kings, I remember I have access to unlimited strength and resources, which positions me for generosity and patience.  When I understand at my very core that all injustices will be corrected by someone who has infinite power and ability to judge rightly, I lose the need to try to correct wrongs.  I also remember all too clearly the things He has forgiven in my life and realize I have no room to begrudge that forgiveness and gentle correction to anyone else.  I've also personally seen Him defend me when I deserved it or when His kingdom needed it--and who can refute it when God Himself defends you? 

We can walk stately, with elegance and authority.  We have resources we never imagined.  That power behind us gives us the power to do good and relax. 


 



Sunday, September 16, 2012

Timing

"But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint."
--Is 40:31

This has become a year of waiting.  I suppose that goes without saying when your word for the year is "dry dock"...  Still, it catches me by surprise sometimes. 

Today I went to the late service to help out with the prayer ministry.  All hands were on deck and it was a great time.  When it was over, I felt driven back to the prayer room.  I sat in the stillness again with no agenda, but without permission to leave.  God's presence was gentle but not overwhelming.  Several people came and left and I enjoyed seeing them, but as they left, I just stayed because the Lord wouldn't let me go.  I had a wonderful time reading and relaxing in the quiet with no idea why I was waiting. 

Eventually one of the other intercessors came in and we had a lovely time talking.  I don't see her often, but she is a true treasure.  She reminded me of things I already knew and told me about how God had rescued her life before she was even born.  I showed her nuances of how God works within her own story that she hadn't considered.  I asked her for prayer and she not only prayed over the work God is doing in my story right now, but also promised to include it in her own journals where she lists the things she regularly brings before the Lord.  I am deeply honored and my strength was renewed. 

Earlier today, the Lord reminded me that He rejoices on the rare occasions that I humbly obey just as much as I rejoice when Katie forms a full sentence on her own.  We are both handicapped.  Katie has speech delays; I am proud and easily morph into a human doing instead of a human being.  We are both learning to get beyond our limitations.  Waiting is a part of the cure for my pride and I'm beginning to really enjoy it. 

My God is good to me.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Miracles...

Tonight, the sermon was on miracles.  Jesus came to show himself as God and he proved it through the miracles He did.  His miracles were both a sign, pointing out who he was and where the real source of power is, but also a window into a world rescued from the fall.  They pointed out where God was doing a new thing. 

Since we believe that God still does miracles, particularly when He is doing a new thing in our lives, our pastor invited people to come up and pray with our team of intercessors and pastors.  We have a great team and many of them came out on a Saturday night, even though they are usually only at church on Sunday morning.  It is such an unbelievable privilege to walk people boldly to the throne of God Himself, first to see the majesty of His face and then in seeing Him, rejoice at His willingness and power to meet their need and display His glory.

Several of the people I prayed with were clearly divine appointments.  One is a longtime friend who didn't even need to tell me what her heart was aching over, but at the Throne, the Lord provided a new avenue for prayer that will truly break open the situation.  Another was a person in tears who needs a new job and needs relationship repairs, but needs to know God is there with her far more than she needs the provision in her circumstances--I can understand that too.  The last one I prayed with was a mom who just wants her daughter to speak.  I can't even count the times my heart has broken wanting my own daughter to speak.  After we prayed, I was delighted to welcome her and her daughter to our Saturday night service, letting her know that her 8 year old will be just as welcome as my own 10 year old. 

This is the stuff.  There's nothing like it, short of spending time before His glorious face myself.   What a joy!  The real miracle is that He could use a proud, silly, over-educated slacker like myself to delight in His work, treasuring a role that is decidedly behind the scenes. 

Now we get to see what God gets to do with all we have asked.  My Father is amazing.