Stand on his feet . . . .

Here I am again, no place to go but to stand on ABBA’s feet

Move Your "..BUT God .."

Boys Wife 1974No clear path, everything that seemed promising turned into a short walk to a false hope, every interview turned into a discouraging  “You were our second choice,” too much unsettled and my life hinging on what I can’t make happen for myself. I want to follow God’s will, and the last thing I want to do is start whacking in panic through the underbrush of the tangle that is my life right now with an “I guess I’ll have to do it myself” mental machete. It seems I’ve done that and only wandered my way further off the trail, deeper into disappointments that feel every bit like a detour from God’s intention for my life. At least I HOPE he intended good for me, but when the lyrics of the old song “God will make a way where there seems to be no way” sound more like a taunt than…

View original post 783 more words

Advertisements

Finding the short, sweet blessing

Rose at typewriter hallmark IMG_0708

The need to write and glorify my Savior comes upon me at the strangest times….
Today I’m out picking grapefruit for a friend who can’t, smelling blossoms and glad for the joy of physical labor.

I helped my dad pick fruit and lay flagstone for a sidewalk and fireplace he built at our family cabin in the mountains. I never thought it was unladylike and I still don’t – I’m not one of those girls who can’t let go of her manicure for the sake of doing something loving.

My parents loved each other and us, so I grew up trusting people to be kind, respectful, unselfish, giving  and caring. Then I met the world of narcissism, self, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, lack of reverence for God, self-preservation at the expense of others, …. But I’d still rather be ingenuous, trusting, and risk getting burned than be suspicious, distrusting, self-preserving at all costs,  and wall out the blessings of kind people just to keep out the unkind.

The world is filled with kind hearts, caring, honest people. they may look different from me, they may live in different circumstances than I do, they may be rich or they may be dirt poor, but I will open my lie to a genuinely good, giving, caring, generous heart any day, anywhere.

Drat I can’t climb this tree to get the fruit inside! Yes, I am a girl at heart woman inside who’d give everything to defend the ones I love. Sometimes the sweetest fruit is hidden deep inside, and we have to brave the thorns and poky branches to love into their lives and help bring their goodness to light.

Once again this all-important word from Jesus:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 NIV

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NIV

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:9-11

When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”  Matthew 25:38-40

I did it for my Beloved, I did it for my DAD, I did it for my friend, and – oh golly, I did it for my joy!

No Silent Witnesses

No Silent Witnesses

IMG_4451

The laws of our land provide protection for people whose testimony against the “bad guys” could potentially bring repercussions and physical violence from the “bad guys” down on them. It occurred to me yesterday, though, while I was having the fun of praying for and with four complete strangers I met in four different places, that God doesn’t expect His children who’ve experienced His blessings to remain silent about His goodness in our lives. Quite the opposite: He calls us to testify to His goodness, to his power, to His love, to the miracles large and small that God does for us every day, even for the miracle of the breath in our lungs and blood in our bodies.

Decades ago a phrase hit the lips and bumper stickers of Christians: If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Like most Christians, for many years I was content to be a “city on a hill” and “Let your (my) light shine before men in such a way that they see your (my) good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.”Matthew 5:16 NIV

“I’d rather BE a witness than speak a witness” and “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words” were my guiding phrases.

The trouble is, how many people who don’t know me will know that glorifying my Father in Heaven is my motivation for the clean life I try to live and the generosity and kindness I try to show? If I’ve never told anyone I’m a Christ follower, how will anyone know I’m anything more than a person who does good things? Frankly and honestly, I think most of us would admit that we’re scared spitless to say we’re Christian, especially in this political and cultural climate we live in. What, admit I’m a Christian and open myself to labels of “Intolerant,” “Narrow-Minded,” “Bigoted,” and “Self-Righteous”? I’m the first to admit that lots of people calling themselves followers of Jesus have done lots of selfish, arrogant, thoughtless, and hurtful things to other people. They have dished out condemnation with not a speck of humility, compassion, understanding, respect, or loving hand of forgiveness, redemption, regeneration, hope and renewal that Christians should be all about, given the Redeemer, Savior, healer and Lover of our Souls we say we serve.

But those people don’t let me off the hook. Yes, every person will have to give account for every idle word we’ve spoken and every evil deed we’ve done. Christians just know whose name and blood we’ll plead as our atonement. But those of us who call upon the name of Jesus ought to be calling out his love, his kindness, his power to heal and deliver, testifying to the good things He’s done for us and in us so that other people can glimpse this Savior who, in Himself, will draw them to His great love.

If we don’t tell them who will? How many places do you think Billy Graham can be in one day?

The apostle Peter wrote:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3: 15-17 NIV

John the beloved wrote:

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Revelation 12:11 NIV

God himself said:

I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God. Isaiah 43:11-12 NIV

King David proclaimed:

I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you. Psalm 35: 18

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south. Psalm 107:2

Jesus himself told us to speak about him:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 16-20 NIV

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

I’m pretty sure you can’t testify, give an answer, teach, praise, give thanks, or be a witness without your words coming into the picture somewhere!

Yesterday I was blessed four times, because yesterday I opened my mouth four times. Let me be the first to say, though, that if my life, my actions, how I treat other people denied what I say about Jesus, my words would very likely be used against me on the day I stand before God in Heaven – they would be some of those “useless words.” But I’ve risked taking a risk before and seen –witnessed – God show up and do some incredibly good things. So yesterday I took a risk four times and asked four people if I could pray for them.

Wow! Glenn is a Believer and teared up when I prayed God would show him the purpose for which he was created, because that was exactly what was on his heart. Ronnie was holding up a cardboard sign, but he showed me his tattered Bible when my friend and I asked if he had one, and we gave him the physical help we could for his needs AS WELL AS words in prayer. Doug waited on our table, and he knows there is a God but doesn’t know much beyond that, except that he needs direction in his life. Bryan took my money at the gas station, and he’s dealing with PTSD after coming back from deployment to Afghanistan. He doesn’t go to church, doesn’t know of a good one in the area, but he wants to get his little twin daughters into a church somewhere.

Four times I gave account for the hope that is in me, and four times I got blessed!

If we don’t open our mouths and speak up something, somehow, for all the goodness God has poured into our lives, who on Earth will know He still does those things? Who will have a reason to seek, ask, knock if we keep quiet about the One who answers?

Oh yes, I have heard people who reply, ”No, thanks,” when I ask if I can pray for them, but even that opens a window to ask if they’ve been turned off by someone acting obnoxious while proclaiming the name of Jesus. And sometimes I just say, “Okay, well, Jesus loves you, so be blessed today” as I walk away smiling.

How hard can that be? Yes, I need to ask the Holy Spirit to put a guard over my mouth and choose my words for me carefully, thoughtfully, kindly, wisely,  to tell me when I’ve said enough and keep me from saying too much.That’s a danger for a storyteller and enthusiastic teacher at heart like me. BUT when we live in a nation where, so far, the worst we’ll get for witnessing to the goodness of Jesus is a smart, curt answer or yes, maybe we’ll be called an intolerant bigot while our brothers and sisters are literally dying for their refusal to deny Jesus, how come we’re so quiet? Do we think it’s better to be “Silent Witnesses”? If we don’t speak up, who will? How will any ever know the relentless love of our Father in Heaven is we don’t say that He is, who He is, and at the very least what He’s done for us?

Jesus also said these sobering words to his followers then, and they still stand for us today:

Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33 NIV

He died for us. He loves us. He helps us. What can we do to say thanks? I rest my case.

As Simple as it Gets

My letter to a Muslim friend

Thanks so much for your question. I will do my best to answer you as simply but in as much wisdom as I can, and not my words as much as what God has spoken.

I need to “back up” before telling you what Easter means to us. The story of Easter begins long before Jesus walked on the Earth.

It starts back with Abraham, when he left Haran to go to a land God, the One God, the Creator of all the Universe, called him to. In the first book of our Bible, which is also the first book of the Torah for Jews, God came to Abraham: the LORD came to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them,m he hurried from the entrance to the tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.” Genesis 18:1-2 God promised Abraham he and his wife Sarai (Sarah) would have a son the next year, the child they name Isaac. That was the beginning of two lines of people who would come from Abraham through Isaac and Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Sarah’s servant Hagar. The children and generations who came through Isaac became the Hebrews, the Jews.

Isaac’s son Jacob had twelve sons, and from them came the twelve tribes of Israel (the new name God gave Jacob). Down through hundreds and hundreds of years, God spoke through people like the shepherd boy David (who became probably the greatest king of Israel) and through prophets that God would send a King, a Redeemer, to Israel.

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in. Who is the King of Glory? the LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.” Psalm 24: 7-8 (written by King David)

“Never the less, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled Zebulun and Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee by the way of the sea, along the Jordan. The people waiting in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned….For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on forever.” Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7 (Isaiah was one of Israel’s greatest prophets).

The problem was that the Jews thought God was sending an earthly king who would defeat their political enemies. But God always had something much deeper and more powerful and difficult to do on his heart: he intended to defeat the sin, the ungodliness, the selfishness and insecurity and fears that live inside all of us and cause the problems we have with each other, wars and killing and slavery and repressive governments, cheating and lying, greed, and creates a huge wall between us and God. God is totally holy, and we by our own choices are NOT holy, but sinful.

We all sin. Not one of us is purely holy, as God is holy. This truth is in both the Torah and the prophets of the Jews, what we Christians call in our Bible the Old Testament, and repeated in writings at the time of Jesus and after his death and resurrection by his followers in what we call the New Testament. (So one difference between Jews and Christians is that we have and believe both their holy writings and the sacred writings about Jesus and the 60 years or so after his crucifixion and resurrection.)

What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles (anyone who is not a Jew) alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written: there is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Roman 9: 10-11

Above all,God loves us his children and wants to be in a loving relationship with us. You can understand that in the way you feel about your daughter! Is there anything you wouldn’t do or give to keep her safe, healthy,protected, and happy, and to see she experiences the best life she can? Would you ever stop being her loving father, even when she makes terrible mistakes? No! You will always love her as a father and want to be in a good, close relationship with her.

That’s exactly what God wanted, too, and wants with all of us. He gave laws to the Jews, but those laws only showed how none of us can keep them. Laws were meant to point out our weaknesses and lead us to God to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. And that is precisely who Jesus was and what he came to do. For some reason the Jews overlooked other promises about their Redeemer (Messiah) in their own Torah and prophets:

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering,. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised ….Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity (sin) of us all. Isaiah 53: 2-6

The sacred books of the Jews told them that their Messiah would come as a suffering servant and the sacrifice that made all other animal sacrifices for sin completely unnecessary. But we all would rather see a conquering king smashing our enemies, not a LORd who comes to pay the price for our foolishness and selfishness. That kind of king requires that we admit our own guilt – maybe the hardest thing for any person to do. God is SO amazingly both holy, just (He can’t look upon sin) AND loving that he did the only thing he could do to save us from our sin: he paid the price himself! Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” H_____, what kind of love sacrifices like that?

The promised King came first as the sacrificial lamb. God poured himself into a cell in the body of a young Jewish girl named Miriam (Mary). God did NOT have sexual relations with Miriam. Why would God the Creator need to do that to create a body, when he created all of us, Miriam included, out of nothing but himself? When the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus (actually Yeshua in Hebrew, which means “God saves.”) Mary was frightened, and she answered, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. so the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1: 30-35 (Luke was a doctor who traveled with some of the disciples, though he was not one of the original 12 men Jesus called to follow him.)

Jesus taught in parables, or stories, and he called himself the Good Shepherd. In his own words, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” John 10:11 (John was one of Jesus’ closes friends as well as a disciple of Jesus, and his writings show the deepest intimacy of Jesus) Jesus was in the Temple at the time of the Feast of Dedication. some Jewish teachers of the law gathered around him there and asked him,”If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. .. I know my sheep and my shneep know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen (meaning people who are not Jewish) . I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd… I and the Father are one.” John 10:14-16, 30

Jesus very pointedly said that he was truly the Son of God, and as Paul said, “The fullness of God in bodily form.” Jesus again told some religious leaders who were questioning by whose authority Jesus did the miracles he did (including giving eyes to the blind, healing lepers and healing the crippled so they could walk, and raising people from death) , “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am.” John 8:58 “I Am” is that name God told Moses when Moses asked God for his name so he could tell the Israelites in the desert who was speaking to him. Jesus said he was equal and one with the Father. John wrote about Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made by him.” Jesus is the Living Word.

This is a long way to get to your question, but we Christians come out of the Jewish roots of our faith. Jesus was a Jew. He was their promised Messiah, but most of them even in his time couldn’t wrap their understanding around God, the Messiah, coming as a servant and a sacrifice for their sins. To Christians, and to Messianic Jews who do recognize that Jesus Yeshua is the promised King and Savior, Easter is the most holy day we celebrate, because it is the time – during Passover when lambs were traditionally sacrificed and Jews celebrated the Seder meal to remember their deliverance from slavery in Egypt – that Yeshua became the sacrificial lamb who took on himself the penalty and punishment for all of our sins, ALL of our sins forever.

We say that our sins are washed away by the “Blood of the Lamb,” and now God sees us through the righteousness of Yeshua. He rose from the dead three days later, just as prophecies from over 400 years before he was born promised, and just as Yeshua said he would rise again. Early in his ministry he went into the temple and saw merchants and money changers defrauding people who came to buy animals for sacrifices. Jesus Yeshua took a whip and drove them out of the temple, saying they were making it a den of thieves. The religious leaders became angry and asked him on whose authority he thought he could do this in God’s house.

John 2:18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.

For Christians, Easter is a joyful grateful celebration that, when we receive this free gift from God of cleansing from our sins through what Jesus did and restoration of relationship with God as his sons and daughters, we know we have that same eternal life with God in Heaven after we die.

“To as many as received him (Jesus), to them he gave the power to become children of God, even to those who believe on his name.”

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!..,. This is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:1, 15-16

We aren’t made right with God by our good works, because none of us can ever be totally free from bad works. But in accepting Jesus as our sacrifice, we walk into the amazing love God has for us. Out of that love, then, because we want to do what honors him and brings God happiness, we do all the good we can for others. Now I admit that over the centuries many people who call themselves Christian have acted in ways that dishonor God. People have done much evil in the world and tried to cover it with “this is for Jesus,” which must make God want to vomit. Jesus himself said that many people would say, “Lord, Lord,” who never really knew him.

What this means to me personally is this: the man I was married to and loved for 38 years who committed adultery many times and now says he wants to “honor God” by being faithful to another woman has ever truly known Jesus, and never really made him Lord on the “throne” of his own life and will. The world would say I should hate him, but if that man turned around today, confessed his wrong, and asked my forgiveness, I would take him back and give him all my love forever. That is what knowing the love Jesus has for me does in me. I was and am forgiven of so much; how can I not forgive others, even my betrayer? I pray for him every day and have cried a river of tears asking God’s Holy Spirit to make Jesus real and visible and audible to that man who has never known Jesus’ love. I pray, “God, restore in him the man you created him to be before his father’s mental illness and his mother’s coldness so wounded him. Make and recreate in him the man you meant him to be while he still has life left to praise you.”

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The two greatest commandments Jesus said, and the total of all the law and the prophets, are these two: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Easter, the horrible death of Jesus, and it was horrible to the extent that the whipping alone he took cut away the flesh from his back and exposed his bones and his internal organs. He was mocked, spit upon, a crown of thorns pushed on his head, and he was forced to carry the crossbeam of his cross on his bleeding shoulders to the place of his execution. There his wrists and feet were pierced with huge spikes and he was nailed to the cross, where his lungs filled with fluid, he suffocated and bled to death. That is how ugly and brutal sin is. We have to recognize how truly terrible and repulsive our sins are. Yeshua gave himself willingly out of love for us, so the penalty of sin – which is death and eternal separation from God – could be paid in full BY GOD HIMSELF so we could live with God forever as his children, loving, forgiving, caring, and blessing while we live on earth, and enjoying his presence in Heaven forever.

Real Christians don’t “blame the Jews” for Jesus’ death. We know our sins put him on the cross. Most Jews don’t recognize Yeshua yet as their promised Messiah, so Easter means nothing to them. To real Christians, it is the very reason we live, and we hope all people come to know this great love. We won’t force anyone to claim Jesus as their Savior, but we certainly hope everyone comes to know this miracle of love for them.

This is a very long answer, but I hope it makes sense to you, my dear friend. YOU are loved passionately by a holy and merciful, just and loving God who made you to know him and to be loved as his son forever.

With deep respect and much regard, my brother,

https://youtu.be/38EVco7eba0

My FATHER makes flowers!

I go deep, but I do come up for air sometimes and frankly relish the times I can feel relaxed. Even more, I enjoy the times God surprises me. I’m not an serious bike rider; my riding consisted of going up to the grocery store, riding my son down to his preschool and then myself over to substitute teach at a local school, or just riding around the neighborhood for fun. I do enjoy riding, but a nice flat bike path is my preferred route. Recently, though, I’ve been challenged to “kick it up a notch’ and try real road biking, complete with loooooong hills.

Just getting adjusted to a much lighter bike, eleven gears I have no idea how to use, and a man’s frame was challenge enough for me, much less 3%-6% hills! I tried wearing bike shoes with cleats until the painful day early in my trial period when the sole pulled off my shoe as I tried to extract my foot from the pedal to stop. The hole in my tights slightly limited the hole in my knee….

Recently I tackled another ride with my good friend and the bicycle club he rides with. Ever the encourager, he has actually pushed me up a few hills with his hand on my back when I felt my heart rate hitting “let’s just pull over and breathe.” He knows I can do it! But on Wednesday my body decided to speak into his optimism, and after the first loooooong hill I called over to him, “I’m taking a right here, I know how to get back to the starting point!” Before he could object – er, encourage me – strenuously, I took a right and rejoiced at the much flatter road stretching ahead.

After a quarter of a mile or so my heart rate fell back into the “No, you’re not having a heart attack” range, and even though the pavement was rough and I did feel a pang of “Quitter!” rising up in me, I was glad for the chance to breathe normally. But oh, in one mile I knew why I chose that point to bail out of the hill conquering.

It’s been a looooooong time, over five years, since anyone gave me flowers. God gave me tremendous loyalty and the spirit to pray without ceasing for His victory in a tragedy, but sometimes God’s answer is “Not in the way you hoped for.” In all honesty, coming to terms with that answer has weighed on my heart on some of my rides, and carrying the weight of sorrow as well as my own body uphill on a bicycle is a load heavier than I can bear some days. I need to be honest with you all: yes, some days my faith, like King David’s in so many Psalms, cries out to God not understanding His why. I think that was part of my bailing out on this ride.

Imagine the sweet joy, then, of the wildflowers I saw lining the road for half a mile: yellow brittlebush, burgundy Perry penstemon, blue columbine, deep pink Baja fairy duster, orang globe mallow…. I stopped pedaling, propped my bicycle against the rock wall, and stooped to smell the flowers.

My Father makes flowers! All the florists in the world can’t spread out a carpet like God does. Sometimes I’ve marveled at the odd truth that we humans have a sense of beauty. We may not all agree on what makes personal beauty, or even beauty in art, but every person launched into life appreciates the splendor of stars and loveliness of flowers. And why, I wondered, did God bother to make them so lovely? So different? Some so fragrant? Yes, I know they attract bees and moths and other pollinators, but why so colorful?

Did He create them with more than pollination in mind? Why do we women view a gift of a bouquet, or even one single rose, as a gesture of love if God didn’t put HIS love for us into their beauty?

‘I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys,” Song of Solomon 2:1

See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:28-33 NIV

He was calling to me to come down that road, to rest in my Creator and Father’s beauty, to receive a reminder and rest in His love through Jesus, to know most of all I am His, He is mine, and His banner over me is love:

See! The winter is past;

the rains are over and gone.

 

Flowers appear on the earth;

the season of singing has come,

the cooing of doves

is heard in our land.

 

fig tree forms its early fruit;

the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.

Arise, come, my darling;

my beautiful one, come with me.” Song of Songs 2:11-13 NIV

My FATHER, your FATHER, extends the single stem of the Blood-red Rose of Sharon in love to you today.

IMG_0686

Know Your Enemy, Know Your Victory!

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take you8r stand against the devils schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God.. Ephesians 6: 10-13

An eating machine: emotionless, calculating, seeking to fill its own desires and satisfy its hunger. Simple. Prey is prey, no personal agenda other than a full stomach. Horrifying truth if you’re a gazelle: it’s not about you – it’s about the lion’s hunger.

I came face-to-face with a horrifying corollary revelation as I awakened from a dream at five o’clock one morning. In my dream, someone I loved and trusted was dispassionately humiliating me. The conversation was about, of all things, a cell phone plan, but that was beside the point I suspect the Holy Spirit was trying to impress upon me. I woke with a feeling of stark horror, seeing an image of the person I knew calmly driving a knife into my chest while he spoke with cold, dispassionate, conscienceless, emotionless, heartless, impersonal, calculated deliberation about why he was doing it.

I have always hated violent, scary movies. I have a natural empathy for others, and I always identified with characters in movies, whether with their joy or their terror. I have to be careful about what I let into my overly compassionate brain! The most frightening movies and real-life stories involve killers –and in these days terrorists – who take other lives in that impersonal, passionless, conscienceless, remorseless, deliberate, cold and calculated way. They don’t kill because they are angry with their victim; they kill to satisfy a hunger within themselves that is the embodiment of pure evil.

I immediately asked the Lord what in the world my dream was about, and suddenly I knew. Our enemy the devil doesn’t care about and isn’t the least bit interested is us as individuals; his only interest is in hurting God, depriving God of the objects of His love, the ones Jesus cherishes, the ones who return his love with gladness and praise and worship. Satan’s hunger is to destroy God’s creation, God’s children, and God’s purposes for their lives and relationship with Him.

I remembered another odd incident when I was 17 years old. One evening I was taking a shower when suddenly, out of nowhere, the thought of a universe without God struck me. The empty horror of barren, pointless, cold and empty existence sank me to my knees shivering on the tile under the warm running water. I shook off the panic by reminding myself of the love I knew from Jesus, the certainty that he lived, he loved and died and rose again FOR ME and lives forever vibrantly and gloriously still with an undying love for me.

Oh, how that must “fry” the devil, when we know with heart-level, gut-level certainty how much the Creator of the universe cherishes us! Lucifer was the chief cherub, the leader of worship in Heaven, when he let love for his own beauty pollutes his heart and set him resolutely and viciously against God Almighty and God’s creation, including all of humanity. He and the angels who joined him, a third of the host of Heaven who rebelled against God, were defeated and cast down, his name changed to Satan, which means “destruction.”

How his narcissistic anger must burn in knowing his defeat is certain because of the victory Jesus won in taking upon himself all our sins and our punishment on the cross, forever cancelling our guilty verdict and restoring us to freely forgiven fellowship with our Father!

Do you know how precious you are? Do you know you were born onto a cosmic battlefield? The most important part you play in the battle for yourself is coming to know and believe the love God has for you? (I John 4:16) The next strategic understanding we must have is that we do have an enemy who wants nothing more than to convince us the first truth isn’t true. His weapons of temptation, accusation, and deception are limited and totally useless against our sure knowledge of the price God paid for us to live in fellowship with him and our firm resolve to live, out of that love we know God has for us, lives that reflect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22) even in the face of a narcissistic, self-focused, personal satisfaction-driven world, even in the face of other people who’ve been fed the lies, distortions, accusations, temptations, and abuses the devil lays out as a snare to snag them, capture them, then devour all of God’s plans and purposes for them, in them and through them.

And the only reason he conducts this hideous, horrifyingly impersonal, calculated, cold, heartless, conscienceless, passionless, brutal warfare is to hurt our Father God. I for one will not give my enemy the satisfaction of his polluted hunger. I choose to believe, in spite of the reality of betrayal, disrespect, and dismissal, that the greater reality is this:

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us., that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!…He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God (Jesus) appeared was to destroy the devils work. …This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers….Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God….You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in your (Jesus) is greater than the one who is in the world….Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God…. This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I John 3:1, 8, 16, 4:4, 7-8, 10-11

And so I choose to love, everyone I can, in every way I can, at every time I can, because I AM part of the victory of Jesus s and I have a job to do in making His love real to others. I will not cave to bitterness, addictions, offenses, my own insecurity that might lead me to demand control, things my way, “worship” from others,. I will not let the devourer use me to hurt my beloved loving Father God!

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Tiger or lion, equally devouring

Tiger or lion, equally devouring

Matthew 5:43-48

You were NOT created to be prey of a hungry, bitter, arrogant and calculating enemy either; you were created to be loved by the Author of Life and the Lover of your soul! Rise up and claim that love for yourself, to wrap yourself in a fiery passion for you forever!

Know Your Enemy, Know Your Victory!

Enlarge My Territory

Funny how God invades my quiet times and turns my thoughts upside down and inside out! I’d love it if I had some sweet sunny rainbow and bunnies post today, but I cannot turn my face away from this child! I cannot hide, deny, or run from the heart of my Jesus and his call on my life and yours. We are not our own; we were bought with a price. We are HIS, and HE needs us to grow up now.

Yesterday I saw horrendous photos of children – and I mean toddlers – being shot in the head by terrorists, children’s bodies lying in rows as hooded men stood over them. This morning I’m reading Psalm 143 and reciting the verses I have memorized, “Save me from my enemies, for I hide myself in you….” And I stop short. This morning this prayer isn’t about me, isn’t meant to be just about the adversary I face in my own life; this morning the Holy Spirit is enlarging both my heart and my prayers.

And haven’t I encouraged other people to do this very thing? On the World Day of Prayer in 2007 I gave a message entitled, “I Need a Bigger Pot” at another church, encouraging the folks assembled to “un-bonsai” their prayer life by taking prayer out of the “my world, my needs” pot, letting their roots and branches grow to un-stunt the growth in the oaks of righteousness they were called to be.

In a split second (God moves at the speed of understanding, which is sometimes faster than the speed of light) I thought of the Prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 and the impact Dr. Bruce Wilkinsons’ book by the same title had on me personally and millions of others back in 2000 when it hit and flew out of bookstores.

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez,[a] saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (NIV)

The subtitle of that book was “Breaking Free to the Blessed Life.” Oh, my righteous Father, do I think the line about enlarging my territory means give me more goodness in my life? Give me influence over more people, in more places, and raise me up to greater accolades and affirmation? Do I realize that 262 of your children desperately NEED to BREAK FREE of their ungodly, unholy captors? Did my heart break yesterday for them? Better question: did I enlarge the territory of my heart? Did my heart-rent prayers GO UP FOR THEM? DID I LET YOU, JESUS, ENLARGE MY HEART AND THE BREADTH AND REACH AND POTENTIAL OF MY PRAYERS?

Read it again, Rose, with God’s eyes, with Jesus’ heart, with the Holy Spirit’s call to you to get down on the floor and pray Psalm 143 FOR your brothers and sisters in more than harm’s way. Lift them to the Father. Defend them with the Blood of Jesus. Call for some Angles to listen up to Psalm 103:20 “Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word” and give them some Word to take!

Read it again or for the first time, couple it with your desire for God to “enlarge your territory,” and extend your heart and your passionate prayers for the Persecuted Church, to dying innocent children, to mother and fathers watching their flesh and blood shot and beheaded. DOES THAT ENLARGE YOUR TERRITORY? How does that impact your prayer, “Oh, that you would bless me.. .and keep me from harm”?

How can I pray that for myself without praying it for that toddler who had six rifles aimed at her precious little head? Can you hear the words of Jesus today in a new way, in a larger territory? What do you hear in his words?

 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:35-4 (NIV)

What do you hear Paul speaking to you? “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 (NIV) Is there something, someone you could pick up and carry in your prayers today?

“And God granted his request.” If God sent a yes to Jabez, won’t he send a yes to your passionate prayer? Don’t you think he’s waiting for you to ask him to move in a way that will show the world his majesty, his holiness, his love, his righteousness, his power? Don’t you think THEY are waiting for prayers from their brothers and sisters to join with their own and set captives free?

I’d love for this post to reach maybe a million people today, so passionate is my cry to see God move to end this horrendous, treacherous abomination by HIS POWER in HIS WAY for HIS GLORY. Maybe only one person will read this. Maybe only one more person will pray. If that person is you, and if you have no idea how to begin, here are Psalm 143 and 144. Put their “names” into this word, launch it, and believe with me that

 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, 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. Isaiah 55:10-11New International Version (NIV)

A “… BUT…” to pray today: LORD, your children all over the world are in peril, literally for their lives, BUT YOU O GOD promise to hear me when I pray, and I ask you to enlarge my territory, so I pray for them:

A psalm of David.

Lord, hear my prayer,

listen to my cry for mercy;

in your faithfulness and righteousness

come to my relief.

Do not bring your servant into judgment,

for no one living is righteous before you.

The enemy pursues me,

he crushes me to the ground;

he makes me dwell in the darkness

like those long dead.

8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,

for I have put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should go,

for to you I entrust my life.

Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,

for I hide myself in you.

Psalm 143

 

Praise be to the Lord my Rock,

who trains my hands for war,

my fingers for battle.

He is my loving God and my fortress,

my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield, in whom I take refuge,

who subdues peoples[a] under me.

Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,

mere mortals that you think of them?

They are like a breath;

their days are like a fleeting shadow.

Part your heavens, Lord, and come down;

touch the mountains, so that they smoke.

Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy;

shoot your arrows and rout them.

Reach down your hand from on high;

deliver me and rescue me

from the mighty waters,

from the hands of foreigners

whose mouths are full of lies,

whose right hands are deceitful.

I will sing a new song to you, my God;

on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,

10 to the One who gives victory to kings,

who delivers his servant David.

From the deadly sword

11 deliver me;

rescue me from the hands of foreigners

whose mouths are full of lies,

whose right hands are deceitful.

12 Then our sons in their youth

will be like well-nurtured plants,

and our daughters will be like pillars

carved to adorn a palace.

13 Our barns will be filled

with every kind of provision.

Our sheep will increase by thousands,

by tens of thousands in our fields;

14  our oxen will draw heavy loads.[b]

There will be no breaching of walls,

no going into captivity,

no cry of distress in our streets.

15 Blessed is the people of whom this is true;

blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.

Psalm 144

Amen and victorious Amen, all for YOUR GLORY JESUS! Horror