An Improbable Avenue from an Omnipotent God

God’s grace to me and others, recorded in these books!

How in the world does God make these improbable connections? Ah, He’s omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. Still, God’s “weaving” humbles and flabbergasts me! All I intended to do was sell a king-size mattress set I didn’t need, trying first through my Facebook friends. And yay, the woman who managed the bookstore at my previous church messaged me that she wanted to buy it, so down they came and loaded it up. She asked me, “You used to write for Donna Partow, didn’t you?” Yes, after the senior pastor’s wife connected me with Donna because she knew I’d written books with the senior pastor of a previous church, I did put together two leaders’ guides for two of Donna’s books, a high honor to me because I highly respect Donna’s world-wide speaking and her faith that drives her.

I was still surprised when she contacted me just a week or two later. I didn’t know 1) that she was working now for a Christian publishing company and 2) that they needed more writers and 3) that Dana thought to mention my name to her co-workers! I drove up, interviewed with the staff, and began writing small gift devotional books for Christian Publishing Group. Holy socks, all that from selling a mattress? Yesterday I got thenexst six title they want me to work on!

My true delight in putting these books together is that I get to share stories from my friends of God moving in their lives. Yes, God moves for, in, and through His ordinary people through everyday events just as powerfully as through big-name preachers and evangelists! And my editor has remarked that these real, ordinary people stories are making their books more powerful than they’ve ever been, enough so that they’re selling out and going into reprint! What a Mighty God we serve!

Oh the matchless grace, kindness, power, sovereign authority and loving goodness of our Savior Jesus and Almighty God and Holy Spirit, our triune God! Not infrequently I’m flat on my face in my spirit, and sometimes literally on the floor, in awed amazement at the work God’s entrusted to me! As the worship song goes, “Who am I that the Lord of all the Earth would care to know my name,care to feel my worth? Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star would choose to light the way for this ever-wandering heart? Not because of who I am, but because of WHO YOU Are!”

I’m nobody more gifted or special than you are; I’m just the girl God created me to be. Many of you have giftings and talents and Knowledge and abilities beyond my capacities, and ya know what”? God wants to use YOU, too, just the way HE created you, for his improbably amazing works through ordinary people, and extraordinary God who chooses to love us and live in and through us when we come to him in awareness of our sins and wrongdoing and thinking, in repentance, wanting God’s forgiveness and help, and looking for and receiving his great merciful forgiveness, cleansing, healing, and righteousness through Jesus’ death on the cross for every single soul on Earth who will come to him and his indescribable gift.

These books, found on the Living Grace website, are the hearts, lives, spritis, awe and wonder of people loved by the matchless love of God through Jesus,and I do hope you can find them share them with family and friends, and yes, send me YOUR own stories of God in your life to richly, powerfully bless and encourage other ordinary people, children of a matchless, extraordinarily loving and giving Heavenly Father God! I couldn’t have possibly orchestrated this miracle myself, BUT GOD DID!

“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” Romans 11: 13

O the Depth of Love Divine

The United Methodist Hymnal Number 627
Text: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788 
Music: Carlton R. Young 
Tune: STOOKEY, Meter: 76.76.77.76


1. O the depth of love divine, 
the unfathomable grace! 
Who shall say how bread and wine 
God into us conveys! 
How the bread his flesh imparts, 
how the wine transmits his blood, 
fills his faithful people’s hearts 
with all the life of God! 

2. Let the wisest mortals show 
how we the grace receive; 
feeble elements bestow 
a power not theirs to give. 
Who explains the wondrous way, 
how through these the virtue came? 
These the virtue did convey, 
yet still remain the same. 

3. How can spirits heavenward rise, 
by earthly matter fed, 
drink herewith divine supplies 
and eat immortal bread? 
Ask the Father’s wisdom how: 
Christ who did the means ordain; 
angels round our altars bow 
to search it out, in vain. 

4. Sure and real is the grace, 
the manner be unknown; 
only meet us in thy ways 
and perfect us in one. 
Let us taste the heavenly powers, 
Lord, we ask for nothing more. 
Thine to bless,’ tis only ours 
to wonder and adore. 

No Big Deal?

No big deal, but….

As I walked into the grocery store, I noticed a man carrying a vase of flowers. I casually remarked, “Someone is going to feel happy today…” to which he answered, ”They’re for the Virgin Mary. I’m going to pray for my girlfriend. She has a tumor.”

“Oh, roger, got it! This is you, Jesus,” I thought, and immediately I asked, “Oh, may I pray for her?”

Surprised, he replied yes, then said he’d put the flowers in his car and be right back. And he did exactly that. When he returned, I began declaring Jesus’ authority over the tumor, prayed for her cleansing, and asked the Lord to shower His love on her to demonstrate His healing power.  

Am I Catholic? No, Evangelical. Did that matter or make a difference? No – not to me or to him or to Jesus! 

He beamed, hugged my shoulder, said, ”Thank you, sister,” and walked to his car.

Do I know his name, his girlfriend’s name, or how God answered that prayer? No. Do I need to? NO! All I DO know is God planned and purposed that meeting in His good timing, and for sure it blessed that young man and told him God WAS listening to the cries of his heart and cared enough to show him so. 

Who got the blessing? Both of us, or rather, by faith, ALL THREE OF US! I take absolute delight in these “chance encounters”, because God’s blessings DO flow, and He reminds me He’s with me and in me. Sooo…. Do it again and again and again, Abba God! Pour out through this empty pitcher! You lavishly shower Your love in these sweet, short moments, and graciously You bless this imperfect servant/child in the pouring! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Holy Spirit! Thank you, good, kind, gracious, powerful, Almighty Father God! Your banner over me IS love,and this “happenstance” was a WAVE of pure JOY!

I’ve never surfed, BUT…. boy, have I ridden God’s waves of goodness! And my point in sharing this? YOU CAN, TOO!

Pull them while the roots are small and shallow ….

Pull Them While the Roots are Small and Shallow ….

They’ll soon be everywhere and deep if I don’t pull them up now!

Boy, here in the hard desert soil, you learn early to go out and pull the weeds while they’re small, their roots are easy to extract, and best of all, when the ground is wet. After our rain yesterday, I scoured the yard for weed-lings, and again today, easily prying them up with a sturdy twig.  Oh, I heard You, Lord: before the roots of ungodliness, sin, offense and bitterness take deep root in your life, pull them up! They may LOOK like a genuine plant, and even their tiny flowers may seem pretty, but do you want to be pulling weeds all over the yard or using a jackhammer to pull those deep roots from hardened soil? 

Boy, I see where I missed the weedlings growing in the life of one I loved, and now I wish I’d had the courage to point them out gently, speaking the truth in love, confident that God would give me grace to say ”No, that feels like fun to you, but it has eternal consequences you won’t think are fun or happy one day!” Grace AND  Godly Truth, mercy AND  genuine Righteousness. Other people may tell them/you/me, ”Oh, that’s not so bad.  Everybody does that sometimes,” but that is NOT what Jesus o0r God’s Holy Spirit said about sin to Cain after he murdered his brother Abel: 

 “Why are you angry,” said the LORD to Cain, “and why has your countenance fallen? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you refuse to do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; you are its object of desire, but you must master it. Genesis 4: 6-7

Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” John 8: 4

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew 5: 29-30 

I’ve repented for not having the courage and the confidence in God to shield and care for me to confront that one in God’s Truth in love. He might have rejected me angrily anyway, but God forgive me for not trusting you to protect me and not having the courage to confront one sliding down the slippery slope to eternal destruction! Here’s where my gift of mercy – what I see so prominent in the American church today – tried to outrank God’s HOLINESS, and now I realize too late that unsanctified mercy is capitulation and  letting that “weed” of cultural compromise root grow and grow and grow deeper in someone else. That’s not love: that’s fear of man, and LORD, how I repent! 

The fear of man lays a snare,but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.Many seek the face of a ruler,
but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice. Proverbs 29: 25-26 ESV

A “… BU12:18 PM…” to pray: Lord God, I goofed. I sinned in fearing that person more than I trusted YOU. So Lord God Almighty, my Protector, and frankly, the One who has mercifully brought me blessings after I repented in tears, help me to fear YOU ALONE, and please now send God-fearing Harvest Workers ________ WILL listen to and respect into that other person’s (________________’s) life with uncompromising God-honoring Truth to confront _______________  with God’s HOLY Word and Truth in love, to bring the repentance God desires from___________ and everyone, for truly … with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward younot wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3: 8-9 NIV  In Jesus’ Name, by God’s Holy Spirit, for God’s Victory, Glory, Praise, Honor, and Pleasure, amen! 

Clean Slate Club

Showing my age with a  magic slate ….
Yes, it WAS fun to draw on these!

Back in the “dark ages” before iPads and digital toys, my parents used to keep my brother and me occupied and out of trouble on long car rides with a magic slate for each of us. For those too young to know, these cardboard toys had a black wax area, covered by a translucent plastic screen. When you drew with the wooden stylus on the screen, against the wax backing, black lines appeared. To erase when you were done, or if you made a mistake, you lifted the screen,and voila, the picture disappeared!

I thought of a magic slate when I awoke this morning, and I began to realize a spiritual principle. We “draw” the story of our lives, and yes, every single one of us makes mistakes along the way. God’s great grace given to us through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross means we get to “lift the screen” and start fresh, IF and AS we come to Him in genuine repentance, sorry for the mistake we made, the feelings we hurt, the wrong we did, confessing and coming to Jesus for HIS cleansing.

Back in the days of magic slates, all too soon we learned that as we drew, the stylus made a line in the wax backing. Lots of drawing meant lots of gouges in the wax. Eventually all those gouges began to impact your drawing, as the stylus ran over indentation after indentation. The screen may have erased your drawing, but the wax held the image, goofs and all.

Hmmm…. I suspect – no, I KNOW – our minds/memories/spirits are something like the wax backing: we remember all too well the mistakes we’ve made. In one way that’s good, if it teaches us not to repeat the mistake. In another way it’s bad, because the enemy of our mind/heart/spirit LOVES to keep reminding us of our mistakes (lets’call it for what it is: SIN) and pointing out that our “back story” is still very much influencing our life today.

Boy, Abba Father God, You have Your work cut out in reminding us of YOUR Truth: For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
    and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8: 10-12 ESV

As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103 12 ESV

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31: 34 ESV

I realized this morning that God doesn’t just “lift our screen” when He forgives our sins: he warms up the wax backing and melts out all of those “grooves” we’ve cut, making our “backing” completely new!And if GOD ALMIGHTY, OLAM EL, EVERLASTING GOD, CREATOR, HOLY RIGHTEOUS ONE, YAHWEH ADONAI doesn’t remember my sins, then why should I listen to that lousy lying accuser of the brethren who wants to keep me focusing on the grooves I cut??!! WHO is the true authority in my life when I’ve come to God through Jesus, the ONE who tells me who I am, the ONE in whom I have my true identity? THE ONE WHO TELLS ME HE’S REMOVED MY SINS AND REMEMBERS THEM NO MORE! But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify[b for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our[c]conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Hebrews 9: 11-14 ESV This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1: 5-9 ESV

So SHUT UP, DEVIL! I am who GOD says I am:

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—  if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,” and

“A stone of stumbling,
    and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2: 1-10 ESV

Hear it again: YOU ARE a chosen racea royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1Peter 2: 9

So, my friend, when Jesus is your Lord and Savior, when you come to him acknowledging you’ve sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God and the Word of God, when you say, “God, yes, I blew it,” and receive the atoning sacrifice Jesus made for you, yes YOU, on the cross ages before you were even created, God Almighty says “What sin?” when you come to him with the accuser’s lies or your own conscience accusing you. Believe GOD, NOT the father of lies, – GOD,who not only lifts the screen but makes new the wax underneath! Jesus says yes, YOU belong to the Clean Slate Club!

A “… BUT…” TO PRAY: OH, loving Father GOD, how often I listen to the wrong voice,to the father of lies who keeps running me over the sinful “grooves” I cut in my life, or worse yet, hiding them from me with a “that’s not so bad …. just lift the screen… no one cares …. everybody does that …. ” so I don’t even realize they’re there. BUT you don’t say those evil, twisted things to me. YOU want me and You tell me I stand clean before you because of my repentance and the Blood of Jesus, and yes, it takes both, so I’m choosing today to say NO to the lies and YES to Your Truth about me: God sees me as chosen, his, clean, beloved, ___________________________________________________ I’m believing God! In Jesus’ Name, amen!


Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors ….

img_1083

A “chance encounter” at the park…

I  felt so disappointed when I  was forced to go to work full-time and couldn’t continue helping with the Women’s Ministry at my church, something I’d done and  loved for over ten years at that church and ten years at a prior church. I felt like I’d lost a  limb, like a part of my self and heart had been cut out. Sincethen,though, in retrospect and for the past three years in ever-increasing reality, I see that ministry is everywhere a Christian is. Some of my past blog posts have been about God showing up, “connecting the dots”  to bring my life and someone else’s alongside each other for a few minutes, months,or years.

Changing direction one morning, walking downhill instead of uphill, I “coincidentally” met a woman, a pastor’s wife, that was truly a God encounter, and now we’ve been friends and helping with the church they’re planting for the past two years. “Coincidentally” the friend of mine who bought the king-size bed I needed to sell and advertised on Facebook put me in contact with people in the company she works for now, and  I’ve been  able to put stories from my friends in wonderful little devotional gift books. It brings me such joy to share their “God encounter” stories with thousands of people I’ll never meet, bringing them encouragement  that God will show up in their lives, too!

Recently I needed to grab a fast dinner down at a  mall and then run to Sears to look for a tool for my husband, all to “constructively kill time” while I waited to go back to a friend’s house to hear the youth choir she leads. As I turned down the arm of the mall to head for Sears, a young woman at a skin care kiosk called out to ask me if I’d try a sample. I stopped, we began chatting, and that began a half-hour conversation on Yeshua and why  yes, she could still be Jewish (she’s from Israel) and receive him as her Messiah.  I told her I’d bring her acopy of my book, but she was surprised the next day when I did. How will God use our meeting? I have no idea. That’s His business; mine was to stop in the mall and  share Christ’s love and Word. Yes, this is the second time I’ve shared with transplanted Israeli Jews at  kiosks in a mall!

The cashier at the grocery store, passers-by on the walking path, people in parking lots, homeless people in the park …. Truly, ministry is EVERYWHERE, and truly we’re called to be ambassadors for/disciples of Jesus whenever and wherever, however and with whomever the opportunity presents itself – or rather, wherever,whenever, however with whomever God’s Holy Spirit  opens a conversational doorway. Did the tragedy in my life that closed the Women’s Ministry door in my life close the door to my ministry? Not by a  long shot! Just  because you don’t  stand behind a pulpit (showing my age) or stand on the platform on Sunday morning, does that mean YOU aren’t called in ministry? NOT BY A LONG SHOT!  If you love  Jesus and call him your Savior and Lord, YOU ARE CALLED TO MINISTRY in sharing Christ’s  love, his tangtible  practical  help, his  encouragement, even his warning if need be, wherever, whenever, however, and with whomever God’s Spirit brings across your  path.

NO EXCUSES! You are able to tell anyone what Jesus means to you, what God’s done for you, and your testimony may be the open doorway or signpost to their own walk with the Lord Jesus.  Jesus COMMANDS us:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13: 34-35

All the Lord asks is that you show HIS love, however, wherever, whenever, with whomever you can, “And they’ll know we are Christian by our love!” More importantly, they’ll meet  Jesus through our love, through YOUR love demonstrated even the next time you step out your door and walk down the street! And you know what? You’ll  feel God’s affirmation OF and joy IN you when you do!

 
A ”… but…” to pray: Father God, I’ve  never seen myself as a preacher or a missionary, but that doesn’t matter in showing and sharing YOUR love, so give me  the courage and give me the strong nudge, Holy Spirit (because I can be nervous or just plain dense!) to step out in faith and ________________________________ knowing YOU will do andhave the power to do  whatever YOU want to do after I step  up to YOUR opening, in Jesus Name, amen. Holy Spirit, I’m listening ____________________________________________________________

 

Cover

Once again I have to be amazed that

Once again I have to be amazed that it’s when I’m speaking to a child or a child speaks to me that I recognize a truth about God’s character as our Father. I spent eighty minutes each week in the spring semester at the school where I work tutoring Jacob, whose native language isn’t English, in reading while his classmates have their Spanish lesson. The previous aide in this classroom advised me that the only way she’d been able to get Jacob’s cooperation in reading was to reward him with candy, so I continued her policy when I took over her position and “inherited” Jacob and his reluctance to study.

As we walked down the hallway toward the school library for our last session of the semester, Jacob began complaining that the students in Spanish were having a party that day.  “Why don’t I get a treat? They’re getting Popsicles!” he asserted.

Using the “love and logic” approach to discipline, I returned a question. “Jacob, do any of the other students in your class get candy for reading?”

“No.”

“”And what do you say when the other children ask why you got candy and they didn’t when we come back into the classroom?”

Silence and a glare from eyes hooded by his wrinkled brow.

Grudgingly Jacob admitted they didn’t get a candy reward for reading, but he still was incensed at the “unfairness” of his situation. I could see that words alone weren’t going to open his eyes. Jacob resentfully pulled out a chair at the library table and plopped down, his arms folded.  I took out the log of our reading sessions and asked him, “Jacob, can you count by two’s to help me count how many pieces of candy you’ve had since we started meeting together?”

“Two, four, six . . . ” he counted as I kept turning pages in our log, “ . . . eighty, eighty-two, oh, eighty-four.”  In silence I let that truth seep into his awareness before I asked, “How many treats do you think the other children are getting from the Spanish teacher?  Eighty-four?”

“No,” Jacob admitted, and his uncrossed arms showed me he got the message. He sighed heavily as he read the first book, a very easy one he’d read many times before, but then warmed up and spoke with some animation in his voice as we read a story about a silly chicken together.

But even as we read, I was hearing a familiar voice in my heart reciting a story I’d read many times. “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. . . . ‘But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’  ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours . . ..’” Luke 15:28, 30-31

I get to live in my Father’s “house” every day, enjoying an intimate relationship with God that is in itself a treat and treasure. Why am I concerned about how other people who “do me dirty” seem to be enjoying today’s  “popsicle” when I’ve already inherited assuredly more than eighty-four blessings straight from my Father’s love? How many times has the Spirit of God connected me wonderfully with someone who needed to hear of his love, with someone who had a word straight from God’s heart to mine? Who is richer?

And I – in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.  Psalm 17:15

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.  Psalm 16: 11

I reminded myself of the most well-known and beloved Psalm in the Bible:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.   Psalm 23: 5-6

With an overflowing heart I cried out to the Good Shepherd, “Living in your love is my reward. Bring the lost ones home to know you, too!”

I gave Jacob the rest of the bag of candy to tuck into his backpack and take home. And guess what – the Spanish teacher gave him a Popsicle, too.

But the greater truth is this: neither of us teachers, and none of the rewards we gave, could ever out-give or even begin to compare with the abundant riches of knowing and dwelling in God’s presence daily, the security of his character as a mightily giving Father.

a ” . . . BUT . . .”  to move:  Father god, I get miffed when I see people who don’t honor you seeming to prosper BUT I rememb