Armor-Bearer, Heart and Soul

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Friday my Bible fell open to 1 Samuel 14, and in an odd place I  read some of the best relationship advice I’ve ever found. The set-up is during Philistine domination of Israel at the time of King Saul. There wasn’t a weapon in Israel and not a single blacksmith to even sharpen their plows and sickles; the only weapons were the swords of Saul and Jonathan. One day Jonathan decided to go after a detachment of Philistine soldiers who had gone to a pass at Micmash. Saul had six hundred men, but Jonathan secretly went out alone with his armor-bearer.

Jonathan said, “Perhaps the LORD will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”

What faith and courage! His armor-bearer answered with words that, to me, should be in the heart of every one of us and every woman in particular , because I sense from the way God created us that our original design was to be the “ezer kenegdo,” the one who comes alongside. “Do all you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said, “Go ahead, I am with you heart and soul.”

Honestly I have known a handful of “modern American” women who feel that way. I am not saying that women shouldn’t work if they want to or if they need to, nor am I saying we were meant to be simply “barefoot and pregnant.” What I do see in this story, though,  is the heart attitude of Jonathan’s armor bearer.  Brenda, Patty,  Eva, Sharon, Sara, Karen, Viola, my “God’s Chicks” buddies from my church in Mesa are armor bearers. My dear friend Debbie feel and think this way, too. The Lord literally brought Debbie and me together as kindred spirits in trial and sorrow in very similar situations in our marriages, though Debbie was further down the road than I when God connected us. We prayed together and praised God together in the early stages, crying out for God to make himself real to our guys who’d gone down the slippery slope of infidelity. Debbie has a sweet, gentle spirit and we share a deep, passionate love for Jesus that I think perhaps only comes when you’ve shared in his sorrow. At any rate, she and I think alike, counter-culturally it seems, that the coolest thing to be is an “armor bearer” beside a Jonathan.

I’ve never heard a pastor preach on the faithfulness, humility, God-honoring and loyalty in Jonathan. All the “press” has been on David, his like-a-brother friend. Jonathan was in line to be the next king, but he knew God had anointed his friend David. What humility as the son of a king to bow to and consider equal to himself the son of a sheep farmer! And what courage Jonathan showed in 1 Samuel 14!

“One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his armor-bearer, ‘Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.’ But he did not tell his father ….’Do all you have in mind,’ his armor-bearer said, ‘Go ahead, I am with you heart and soul.’ … Jonathan  climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre.”

Men are called to be Jonathans beside Jesus, and that’s an incredible commission handed to you. You guys need more than a pretty face, sweet words, hot body and healthy bank account in a woman: you need an armor-bearer, because when the heat is on and you have to go alone to take down the “Philistines” marauding the people and causes you love, you need a woman with the heart to carry your armor, be with you heart and soul, go beside you and take down a few behind you.

And yes, women are called to champion causes as well. In truth we all should have the attitude of Jonathan’s armor bearer toward each other, the attitude Jonathan had toward David.  Climbing over, getting ahead of, and standing on top of other people, particularly our family, friends, and colleagues,  will never give us the deep reward found in standing beside each other “with all my heart and soul.”

It takes two people and four hands to play “Heart and Soul” on the piano. It sometimes only takes two people and four hands, two hearts and souls, to bring down twenty of the “enemies” like offense, division in families, oppression,  you fill in the list.

Who needs you to go with them and put your hands, heart and soul beside theirs today?

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Ginny’s Balloon

In my email this morning was a notification I’ve never received before: an orange balloon with the message “April 16th is Ginny M______’s 58th birthday.” A wave of shock and sorrow crashed over me, with wondering like seaweed wrapping around my mind. I never even knew the date of Ginny’s birthday! Who sent this? How and why did this reminder come to me?

The last time I spoke with Ginny was in November, 1996, when, moved by a nudge inside me from God’s Spirit, I told the prayer team at our women’s retreat that I didn’t think I could lead the team the following year. Ginny stepped up and said, “I know God has been calling me to do something, but I didn’t know what. Sure, I’ll take over!” Sure enough, my husband took a new job and moved us across the country in September of 1997. For several years after that Ginny led the prayer team, a group of amazing, fun, passionately praying, ordinary, extraordinarily loving women

But why did I get this “Birthday Alarm” email? I don’t even know about a website called Birthday Alarm!

These questions swirled as, oh, God, I broke down in tears for Ginny, remembering the sweet spirit she showed, her compassionate heart, the prayer warrior she was, her struggle to understand and to survive on a small income from a non-profit job after her husband’s betrayal and their divorce. I prayed for Ginny’s family for comfort today and on her birthday, because Ginny took her life over ten years ago.

She never saw the baby her daughter was carrying at the time when Ginny’s pain and grief outweighed her hope. Why, then, this strange email – a shocking reminder of her grief and yet a memory of her warmth and love?

In the middle of my tears, doubled over on the floor in grief, I asked, “This is from you. It must be something deeper than Ginny, isn’t it, Jesus?”  Immediately I “saw” other women on their own floor in tears, and I began praying for others who may today be on the brink of suicide as Ginny was, needing a real hand of love and hope outstretched to them, someone somehow breaking into their life with real, tangible hope, a message of love from someone that can keep them going one more day and believing that God has good ahead for their lives. In all honesty, I know what Ginny felt, because deep love loves deeply forever, grief and despair overwhelmed me two summers ago and I almost went the way Ginny chose to end the pain of her loss. Sweet friend Ginny, I know what you felt, because you and I love with the heart we asked Jesus to give us.

“This is something deeper than Ginny, isn’t it, Jesus?”

It’s a call to all of us to do two things: first, to let the incredible love and compassion of God push out the walls of our hearts, open and expand our prayers beyond our own immediate concerns, beyond our own families and jobs and wants, to make our hearts big enough to contain the cares and hopes and sorrows and desires and urgencies of our Father’s heart. Secondly, it’s the call to listen and act on prompts God gives us to pray for others, not to shrug them off as our own ideas, but take them as a call to come alongside Jesus as “priests” beside him as he prays for those unknown to us but intimately loved and known by him.

Thirty years ago I felt a nudge to make an appointment with my hairdresser David to get a haircut. He was going through a divorce at the time, but we had never talked about how it was impacting him. I had errands to run that day, so I pushed aside the thought and didn’t come back to it for two weeks. I called the salon at last and asked it I could make an appointment with David. “Oh …. ,” the receptionist paused, “haven’t you heard? David drove his car off the road in North Mountain Park last week. David is dead.”

Could a conversation with him, a prayer with David have given him hope enough to hang on? I’ll never know.

But I know I will never again ignore a nudge to call, to stop and speak to someone, to pray.

A friend asked me to speak at her church’s World Day of Prayer service in 2007. I wondered what message God wanted me to bring to them and waited for inspiration. A few days later I was looking in the bathroom mirror, concerned for all the wrinkles starting to show on my face, and  I began praying, ”Oh God, please increase the collagen production in my skin …” when God interrupted me with the memory of a local police officer who’d been burned over much of his body when his police car crashed into a vehicle he was chasing. His car was engulfed in flames. I’d seen a story about him on television, how he was still trying to be a positive husband and father to his family, even though he had no nose and no ears and his face was horribly disfigured. My words changed in mid-stream, and I prayed instead, “God, please restore healthy skin to Jason’s face and body. Bring him a miracle of new skin. And Jesus, others are struggling with burns and scars …. Jesus, heal THEIR skin!”

I glanced at the small artificial “bonsai” tree sitting on the bathroom counter, and the Spirit gave me the message he wanted to deliver: “I need a bigger pot.” I need, we all need, to stop living in tiny containers, pruning our “roots” and stunting the growth of our prayers to only reach as high as our own immediate concerns. God calls us to let him grow our “roots” to take in the needs and concerns and urgencies of people all over our world. We’re meant to be 50-foot tall Oaks of  Righteousness, not dwarfed bonsai imitations, whose roots reach out to others near and far.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV

Oh, sweet prayer warrior Ginny, you did it. Your memory moved me beyond my own sense of loss to take in the loss someone else is feeling out there today, to pray and, I truly believe, to activate God’s plan to send angels or his people – maybe YOU, my reader friend – with hearts full of love, encouragement, hope, and real physical help where that’s the pressing, vital need today for some hurting, grieving, barely hoping heart.

We need pure hearts, big hearts, hearts refined by the relentless love and compassion of God. Someone, somewhere, needs your prayers today! Needs your phone call today! Needs your text message or email, but most of all, your physical presence beside them today! I wept on the floor and sang this song as a cry to God to enlarge my heart again:

Purify my heart, let me be as gold, and precious silver. Refiner’s Fire ….

I was almost in Ginny’s spot not so very long ago, and miraculously, Praise God, I’m still here. Thank God if you don’t know the bitter heartbreak of betrayal, but Jesus does, and I think He sent me this reminder today to flatten me on the floor in awareness to pray for women I’ll never meet, men I’ll never know, but who need Jesus’ power and presence released in their lives in tangible, mighty, loving, powerful ways today.

I’d love to send up a thousand prayer balloons for Ginny!

Can I ask you to join me, to ask God who in the world needs your prayers, and to pray today to honor our Father’s precious daughter Ginny?

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G-ray vision

imagesSuperman in the 1950’s TV series had X-ray vision to see through walls and doors and anything. In my later years I wondered, as I’m sure some boys did in earlier years, if he truly saw through EVERYTHING. No doubt some wished for that super power.

I’m moved so deeply today through another kind of super power. To be “catchy,” I’ve titled it “G-ray vision,” but its far from a funny hook. I was moved to fall on my face on the floor in humility and my own contrition for a huge blunder I made last month, on the floor a few minutes ago to recognize that beyond our sin, how incredibly valuable God’s children are to him, how great indeed beyond measure the price he gave for us to be in relationship with him, not as his servants, but as his sons and daughters. That gives each of us who call him our Father and Lord the responsibility to see each other, to consider each other, to regard each other as that valued and actually holy. You are God’s child, infused with incredible value, worth, dignity and honor, and any person who seeks to know you (at least I think in God’s perspective) dang well ought to recognize and respect your intrinsic value, irrespective of anything you do or don’t do, or say or don’t say, withhold or give, apart from your intelligence, apart from the deeply demanding work you do, apart from your appearance, purely because you are worth the Blood of Jesus.

How we miss it! How we value and withhold value from others based on all of those superficial things, go through online dating sites’ bazillion questions to determine “compatibility,” screen out people as friends or worth getting to know or let into our life in any way based on their appearance, their job, their net worth, their car, their hobbies, what movies and music they like, what they do for fun, when we ought to be looking for the stamp of God’s ownership on each other, knowing other factors are minor, superficial, of secondary importance compared to that person’s God-infused dignity and value.

That’s why I can’t lead a brother into temptation and sin, why I can’t dress enticingly – especially not in church – why I can’t use my words to flirt and flatter and cause any brother to fall into any kind temptation or degrade him in any way by seeing him as a “catch” or “something that will give ME worth to possess” or to “bag.” How disgusting to God if I thought of any man that way, and how dishonoring to him and filth-bringing to the vessel of honor God intends me to be because of his offering of himself in his Son Jesus to bring me into God’s very own family.

It’s why no Christian man, no one who names himself by the Name above all Names, should ever entice a woman with flattering words, shiny gifts, pricey dinners, or false promises just to “bag” her for his own glorification or personal gratification. We aren’t created and bought with Jesus’ blood to use each other or lead anyone away from personal integrity and purity.

Why does a  Christian woman wear that extremely short dress to church? I saw one woman today on Easter Sunday and wondered how she cold sit in the chair in front of me without revealing what God has called holy, meant to be seen by one man alone in covenant alone? Why the plunging neckline and five-inch heels? Sisters in Christ, why lead a son of God into temptation just to satisfy your need to feel desirable and wanted? Men, brothers in Christ, why are you giving  seductive winks, flattering words and slick phrases like flowers meant to attract a “bee,”  and false promises to God’s daughter if you don’t intend to honor and respect her and protect her integrity and purity? Do you see what you are doing to your own worth, dirtying the dignity Jesus gave you in his bearing the lashes and thorns and nails?

This is G-ray vision:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8 NSAB

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Romans 12: 9-11 NIV

His (God’s) divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 2 Peter 1:3-7 NIV

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 2 Timothy 2:18-21 NIV

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 2 Peter 2:20 NIV

I don’t care what “modern American culture” says is okay, what is tolerable, what’s even admirable and desirable to achieve “self-actualization,” what slips and slides from righteousness are “not so bad.” I actually heard a man excuse and rationalize  his pornography habit by saying, “If that’s my worst sin, it’s not so bad. Besides, God made me this way.”  What an insult and affront to the Blood of Jesus, the holiness of God, even that man’s own purity as a son bought and meant to be cleansed and holy by the agony and sacrifice of Jesus Christ! I don’t care WHAT the world says; I care what the God of the Universe, Alpha and  Omega, Creator, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Righteous One, Holy One, Immutable Love and Purity,says is right, what He says is wrong, what He says honors others, what he says degrades them and defiles me in the doing.

Under the compelling conviction of the Spirit, today, on Resurrection Day, I  publicly say these things to prayerfully help a few other people who may read it choose to really, truly, rightly and respectingly turn from culture and truly honor and value others.

Anyone’s attitude of dishonor, contempt and degrading selfishness is intolerable to God, given what Jesus paid for you and me. That’s not my pride talking, because i didn’t and couldn’t do a thing to make myself “acceptable” to God.I am only acceptable, and more than acceptable – beloved – because of Jesus’s death on the cross for my sins.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  2 Corinthians 5:21

Believe me, in no way am I “holier than thou,” I ain’t holy at all in my own right, and I fall down and fail as often as the next person. Today I had to bow before my Father God in surrender and say, “Yes, Abba, I am yours, I must choose to see and honor your value in me and not degrade the price you paid for me, just to have a man want me.”

Salvation is our free gift; discipleship costs us. What am I, what are you willing to give up, give over, do without, yes SPEAK OUT and stand up for to honor the Savior who bought you?

Can I call you to join me today to become the true superheroes? Can I ask you to choose, against the tide of an increasingly narcissistic culture, to  become the men and women with G-ray vision? Can you feel your own dignity rise as you do, to your rightful place as a child of the living, holy God?

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And value them as you are valued, see them as you are seen by God!