Stones of Remembrance: I Will Testify To Love

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”… Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day….On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea[b] when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” Joshua 4: 1-7, 9, 19-24 NIV

That’s what this blog is: stones of remembrance I place here to testify to God’s goodness in my life. So today I HAVE TO add this stone to the stack here  that  I truly pray is an altar to the faithfulness of God. About three weeks ago I “accidentally” ended up in a coffee shop about twenty minutes  before my son got there to met me  for breakfast. His friends had suggested the spot, so I drove  downtown on a very low-cloud-covered unusual day for metro Phoenix, guided by my Google maps to take a route I wouldn’thave  chosen,and the first event happened going north on the 101 (instead of west on the  202 as I would have done) : a heart-shaped  hole in the clouds ahead of me. Seriously,  a heart-shaped hole that morphed into an even more  heart-shaped  hole as I watched it above the freeway. Law-abiding driver  that I am, I didn’t grab my phone to take a picture of it to show you here. Yes, God Almighty was speaking love to me!

I got to share HIS love as I waited for Emily,  the barista, to pour my green iced tea, inspired by the Apple photo on the TV on the wall of Hong Kong harbor to ask her,   “Would you like to hear about a miracle that happened  there?” as I pointed to the skyscrapers on the TV. No one else was there, so I had time to share the miracle birth of  my granddaughter and the miracle of me being able to FIND my family when I had  no way to contact them, a miracle God set up nine years earlier (thank you again, Julia, and your mother, too).

Emily knew it was no accident that I was there; I knew it, too,  and that became more apparent over the course of the hour or so we were there. “Coincidentally,” I “happened” to have a photo book of my granddaughter’s first weeks, in the bag of Valentine goodies I had  for my younger son. The book had been my late mother’s copy, and I’ve had it for eight years. Why did I  only think to give it to Ethan that morning? All I can think is that THAT was God’s timing and intention to speak HIS incredible love to Emily (and to me in the process).

Fast forward three weeks. A new song copied on my voice memos on my phone that morning,  I’m at a Mental Health and the Gospel conference in Tempe. Wow! Sunday morning  services should be this transparent, honest, open, shame-free and  healing! YES, every one of us is born a sinner,and YES, JESUS’ sacrifice on the cross is MORE than enough to atone for it all when we run to embrace His  lavish, implausible, incomprehensible, relentless  love and mercy, so we can be FREE to be REAL with each other and find healing. I got a nudge to eat my box lunch in  my car and then head to another East-Valley church, where I knew there was a prayer room. I thought I knew why I was going: to play and sing and fling that song as a worship “rock” in my “sling,”  BUT GOD…… had another purpose.

I’d noticed a young woman come into the sanctuary earlier. Okay, she was there to pray, too;  that was obvious by the  spot where she knelt. I  did my thing, turned to leave,and got another nudge to go over to her and gently share that I wanted to stand with her in agreement for her prayers. I walked over, briefly said I wanted to add my prayers to hers, and she smiled, so I put my hand on her arm and prayed for her, including for the healing I assumed she needed, given the walker parked beside her.  Her eyes widened, and  she asked, “How did you do that? I felt the Holy Spirit!” I quickly assured her that I hadn’t done a THING; who she felt was THE HOLY SPIRIT  just pouring out of one very empty bucket.

Note: she wasn’t a member of that church. Ursula had come to attend a group, but the meeting she was looking for wasn’t happening that day! So…. we both “happened” to be in the same place at the same time…. Oh the depth of the wonder of the glorious mercies of God! We knelt together, shared honestly and  transparently for probably twenty minutes, and LOVE met us there! I practically needed her walker to rise and walk, trembling,  across the sanctuary to go to my car. THIS LOVE! THIS LIVING LOVE! THIS HOLY FIRE OF BURNING DESIRE FOR EVERY ONE OF US TO KNOW HIM!

What does this mean for you? Do you have any idea how very, very, very much God wants to lavish HIS FATHER LOVE on you and in you – just as you are right now, humanity and scars and weaknesses and  mess-ups and all  – because HE IS LOVE?!!! I need to remember this as much as every one of you reading this does: I AM CHERISHED BY ALMIGHTY GOD –  so as I put yet another  stone upon this altar to God’s amazing faithfulness in my life, will you kneel with me, search your heart for a stone you can add, or ask for one to be able to place on your own pile, and worship a FATHOMLESS LOVE who has a name – JESUS – with me?

I may feel unloved, useless, worthless and invalidated when people reject me, BUT GOD SAYS I AM DEEPLY LOVED, and that’s YOUR “…but…” to pray today!

Family-praising-God1

 

 

 

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Undercover High Divers- or,God Takes Me Into Places I’d Walk Away From!

No, it’s not about me. It’s NEVER about me. It’s always and ever about who GOD is, what GOD says and  does and where GOD leads me, and when He “sets me up,” it’s for goodness I could never have engineered myself.

Disclaimer: I’m not one of “David’s mighty men” who  did “exploits” and took  out  Israel’s enemies with their muscle, courage and swords. No, I’m one of God’s  daughters who loves her family, read Bible stories to my sons and knelt  by their beds to pray with them every night, put band aids on boo-boos,  rode bikes with them around the block, threw together costumes for plays, and basically tried to be a loving, encouraging, supportive mom and a giving, respecting  wife. Exploits? Swords? Battle? Not me! “I’m a lover, not a fighter!”

Or have I been looking at battle and exploits the wrong way?  Have I thought victory  depended on my muscles and courage?  Is bravery only going face-to-face against nasty people?

Maybe I need a new lens in my spirit and mind’s “telescope”! The Warrior is Jesus; the shield is HIS faith! The Sword is the Holy Spirit,  and the Victor and  empowerer and King is YHWH Almighty, Olam El, Everlasting God. Does that mean I’m irrelevant? What’s my part in the battle for God’s Kingdom to come and  His will to be done again, fully, on Earth as it is in Heaven?  I’m thinking it’s discerning my TRUE enemy (NOT the people who bring strife into my life, but the ungodly spirits whispering and lying to them)  worship, prayer, and bold kindness.

So… are you ready for a story? The latest “what is GOD up to” happened yesterday, and as usual, He started it long before. About five years ago I started going to a nearby Healing Room  (http://healingrooms.com) for some prayer and insight into an  emotional/spiritual battle in my life. And a disclaimer here: surrendering a year before that, and understanding what surrendering meant and why God wanted me to,  would have limited the wounds I needed healing for. From time to time since then, I’ve gone again, and always God has spoken loving, caring word to me. I went again last week, and God spoke about a tangled mess of cords and said, through the intercessor, that He was patiently, capably, lovingly untangling the problem. The intercessor told me, “The Lord says,’ Don’t you worry – you’re still plugged into ME.  I’m your power source! I have  enough for you – even more than you know. Say My name, plead My Blood!”

Wow! God’s arm around my shoulder and His hand on my heart, faithfully.

Are you ready for more of God’s dot-to-dot? Saturday night I  needed to  get out of the house, so I decided to go to the Saturday evening service at the church that  hosts this  Healing Room. It  was very informal but VERY SIMPLY YES, we KNOW God’s Spirit lives in us, so of course we expect to see His hand and power in our lives and we get “out there”  and live as though it’s  true. They announced prophetic prayer the next afternoon for anyone who might want some, so I signed up. Yes, call me a junkie for God’s voice and Presence! My tentative plans for later Sunday were to have dinner with my younger son, who was in town visiting some of his  friends, so I signed up for a  later time slot.

But on Sunday, my son texted me that his friends had dinner plans, so could we do breakfast on Monday instead.  Hmm… I usually drive 85 miles south on Monday mornings to attend an amazingly anointed worship intercession group (and yes, it’s more than worth the gas and time), but this was a chance to see my son, and then up popped an email about the Monday noon hour prayer here in town, so I could do breakfast with my son and still do some intercession. His friends suggested a coffee shop in the downtown area, and I agreed. Off I went  to  the church, and gosh, there were more people than I expected to see there. People ARE hungry to hear God’s voice!

What I heard from the man and the young woman, Carl and Elyse,  I sat down with, two total strangers, spoke directly into my life. Carrying the fragrance of Christ, and levels, Carl reported, going new places in different ways, prayer critical beforehand.  Elyse smiled and said as she was writing  down in her notebook what she was hearing from God, Carl had been saying the same things! The word she heard, though, was “high diver,” and she insightfully pointed out that the higher a diver dives from, the deeper the plunge, the deeper the impact. “Holy socks, God,” I thought,”you mean I’m going to go through more than I already have???!!”

Let me insert here that  I’ve never jumped off any board higher than about three feet above the pool, and then I stood on the edge and bent over and did a very shallow  dive. Usually I enter a pool by the steps! I avoid confrontation when at all possible, like to keep the peace, and may have an Achilles’ heel of mercy. Exploits and boldness are not  natural to me, nor is diving off a high board! If I have any courage and boldness at all, it’s God’s Spirit in me, not me myself and I!

Elyse said I’d/we get to choose to respond to God’s higher and deeper or not, so the next day I hopped in my car, allowing an hour for commuter traffic, and set off to meet my son for breakfast, expecting nothing more than coffee and giving him his belated Valentine’s Day card and  gifts..

The traffic on this unusually low cloud-covered day was lighter than usual due to, I suppose, the Presidents’ Day holiday. I followed my phone’s GPS, not the usual way I’d have chosen to drive downtown, when, turning up the 101 onto surprising heavy traffic, I saw a hole in the thick clouds ahead of me. Was it …no, I wasn’t dreaming … a heart-shaped hole in the swiftly moving clouds? It  was! And darn my safety conscious self, I did NOT take my hand off the wheel and my eyes off the road to switch to the camera on my phone and take a picture to show you. Trust me; it WAS a heart! And it dissolved in about five minutes, but I was aimed straight at it,  or I might have missed it. Thank you, Jesus, for  Your directions and Your Love!

I arrived at the coffee shop twenty minutes before  our scheduled time, so I got an iced green tea from the barista, Emily, at the counter. If my son’s friends hadn’t recommended the shop, and if I didn’t  know they’re solid Jesus followers, I might’ve walked back out the door after I saw the painting of a winged, horned  being with a pointed tongue on the back wall! God is  amazing and God is pure love in the places HE leads us! I noticed, thankfully, a picture of Hong Kong harbor on the changing TV screen on the wall. Hmmm…. almost nobody else in  the place, so after commenting on how  much Emily must have had to learn to make all those drinks, I asked her if she’d like to hear about a miracle. She smiled and replied yes, so I told her about how God arranged nine years earlier to make the connections I needed in Hong Kong when my granddaughter started arriving  eleven weeks prematurely. No kidding, I counted 21 miracles on that trip!

 

My son arrived, so we ordered, sat down, I gave him the photo flip book I’d made him for Valentine’s Day, along with the extra  copy  I had of the photo book of his niece’s early arrival (how had I thought to bring that to him this day, when I’ve had it since 2010?). When Emily brought our food, there on the table was the photo record of the miracle I’d shared with her!

Shortening this long story, after we ate, I asked Emily if she’d like a copy of the devotional book I had (happened to have two copies) in my car. She said  she would, and told me she’s seeking, so I gave her a book, and she asked if I’d come back before she leaves this job for another one in a  few weeks. Don’t you know I will! This was TOO GOD to be coincidence!

Off I flew to the noon hour prayer, where 50-ish of us poured out fervent prayers for our nation, our  leaders, our infrastructure, our schools, our national character. High diving?On my “usual” Mondays, 25-ish of us pray for loved ones, friends, ministries, other faiths, governmental leaders, nations, and terrorist groups to come to know Jesus as Savior, as Lord of  their lives and Lover of their soul. Again, high divers, andLord  willing, deep impact, because noneof these 85-ish people pray for their own financial gain, fame,or easy living; what we/they pray for are the concerns of God’s passionately loving heart. Here’s what the meeting I missed prayed for: “Sharing about discernment of the  enemy’s works and God’sleading us to worship and praise Him for His Sovereignty over the as He goes to battle. In our praise, pain will turn to JOY as we see Him. He will not let us go. He is LOVE and has given us Himself!”

Boy, howdy and hallelujah! God LOVES ME! GOD LOVES YOU! HE  GIVE HIMSELF TO YOU A ND FILLS YOU TO BE HIS LIGHT, HEART, HAND, VOICE,  COMPASSION, PRAYER VICTORY HERE! If anybody thinks  this is religion talking, then you don’t  know HIM! God is RELATIONSHIP, not religion!

Yes, I guess we DO dive from the high board! Lord God Almighty, Holy One, One and Only Lord Most High, yes, by YOUR power  that inspires us to PRAY, may YOU FILL and cause our prayers to have deep, lasting, powerful, redeeming, delivering, life-transforming impact in lives, hearts, minds, bodies, spirits, wills, people YOU created all around the world, for their Eternity’s sake and Your Glory, Your delight, YOUR praise and pleasure and relentless Love’s sake, in Jesus’ name, amen!

IT’S ABOUT YOU, FATHER, JESUS, HOLY SPIRIT!

WHO AM I – WHO IS THIS READER –  TO YOU IN THIS?

And that’s enough to throw me flat on my face on the floor in worship and awe, asking YOU to give me the courage to take a  deep breath and dive as YOU make of this what YOUR HEART DESIRES!

 

a “…BUT…” to pray (yes, this is your most powerful weapon!):God, I may be – heck, I am – timid, scared, small, powerless in myself, BUT YOU SAY I am Yours, so fill me with Your courage and help me ____________________________________,  by Your Holy Spirit, for Your glory, in Jesus’ name, amen!

But I never traveled alone ….

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Hong Kong island from the Aberdeen side, 2006

Yesterday during my conversation with my long-time friends Belva and Maureen, I realized something positively and powerfully true: in the four times I’ve flown alone to Asia and back, and the one time with my younger son, I never WAS alone.

Trip # 1, crossing the Pacific roughly eleven hours after I heard the news that sent me online to book a flight, on the phone to call my friend Julia to hopefully connect with her  parents in Hong Kong,  and then hurriedly to the bedroom to pack a suitcase, I  tried to keep my  heart and mind at peace  by reading Brendan Manning’s book “Ruthless Trust.” He wrote, “ For me and many others, Jesus is the revelation of the only God worthy of trust … The promise of his (God’s) presence and the presence of his promise ….” I prayed all the way for safety and  health for my daughter-in-law  and newly arriving over two months too early granddaughter. Was I alone? NO! God’sars of promise and peace wrapped me on that flight, and HE proved his promises are faithful when 1) I easily found Julia’s mother in the airport and 2) Elsa arrived safely and never developed a serious complication in the seven weeks she was in the NICU. I counted 21 miracles on that trip! You may think  miracles are only things like raising the dead and restoring seeing eyes  to the blind, but when God arranges  three successive apartments to stay in on an island with mile-high rents and hotel room costs, a complete Thanksgiving dinner when the best you were  hoping for was turkey sandwiches at a deli, and warmly welcoming people – strangers who became friends –  in a church in Kowloon,  I call those miracles.

Trip # 2, crossing the Pacific again, this time to mainland China and Thailand, on the   I remained in good health and relative clarity of mind  despite the 35 hours without sleep. On my return trip  with what I thought was plenty of time  to  transfer in the airport  in Hong Kong, I was able to pick up my bags (which couldn’t be checked through), check them through security, go outside the terminal, go back into the international side of  the terminal, go through security again, check my bags, go through security again, and get an iced tea at the Starbucks  right beside  my gate with a whopping eight minutes to spare before  boarding  the plane!  Was I alone? NO!

Trip #3,  again to mainland China and Thailand, no issues  going, but coming back I flew from the interior to another mainland airport where, surely, there would be signs in English and English-speaking workers who could direct me to the van to get to the ferry to get across the harbor to the airport.  Uh,  wrong. I exited the terminal to a parking lot  filled with vans with nothing but Mandarin characters on them. Just as God says in Isaiah 30: 21, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” And that’s exactly what happened, when God provided an airline pilot from Taiwan, walking behind  me, to guide me to the van that went to the ferry terminal. Was I alone? NO WAY!

Trip #4, the trip  that Orbitz almost  cancelled due to a  flight change by Korean Airlines, thanks to the 24-hour flu bug I caught, I was able to talk directly to Korean Air and salvage my  trip by leaving a day early, with the added benefit of staying in a hotel in Seoul to rest up, have lunch, and exercise in the hotel gym. On the way back I was  blessed with an extra day to stay with dear friends in Chiang Mai, get a  birthday massage, and hear an incredible story of God’s power and providence. Was I alone, ever? NOT EVER!

Trip $5 to mainland China with my younger son, with (again, we thought) ample time to arrive in Beijing and catch our flight  to the interior, we met  an impossibly long line at immigration, surely too long for us to get through and catch our flight. BUT a cleaning woman directed us (and how did she speak English and see our predicament??) directed us to go through the diplomaticl ine. Then when the inter-terminal train  zipped right past the terminal we needed  and deposited us at the next terminal, again Isaiah 30:21 in the form of a Chinese university professor  behind us, traveling back home (to the same city we were  heading for) from teaching in Texas, who helped us navigate security and find the train that WOULD take us  to the terminal we needed. Then when Satan broke all Heck loose at the next security checkpoint, we  still made it to the gate in time to  board  just before they closed the boarding.

Oh,Rose, why do you ever doubt God’s love and PRESENCE? I can almost  hear my eternally patient Heavenly Father saying,”Tsk, tsk, my beloved daughter, how many times  do I  have to pull your  hide out of the fire before you WILL TRUST MY LOVE FOR YOU and THAT MY PLANS ARE FOR YOUR GOOD???

 

I actually got word from God back in 2013 through an intercessor at a Healing Room – and NOT  the intercessors I was praying with – that said, “I’m trying to bless you. You have to LET me!”

Okay, 1) I must be a slow learner when it comes to my heart catching up with God’s  truth and  2) the sons of Korah said it more poetically than I just did:

For the director of music. A maskil[c] of the Sons of Korah.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.   Psalm 42:1-11 NIV

I share my all-too frail humanity with you all,  with someone else who, like me,has a hard time catching your heart up to God’s truth, to encourage you that GOD WILL NEVER LET YOU WALK ALONE! Even when you may be physically alone and in dicey circumstances, GOD IS  WITH YOU! Remember WHO  walked in the fiery furnace WITH Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He is the same today for you as he was then with them!

This is NOT just the power of positive thinking. Positive thinking couldn’t have gotten me out of any of these troubles or created any of these miracles. GOD DID!

Put your hope in God, for yes, you will yet find reason to praise Him!

Pepper Jelly, Patronymics, Pennsylvania, and Passionate Papa

Over the kitchen counter at the Christmas party at a friend’s house, now about 100 miles from where I live, Doug asked me about the cream cheese spread I’d made. I told him the ingredient he wondered about was pepper jelly, something I’d first tasted in Pennsylvania Dutch country and enjoyed so much that I bought a Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook to get the recipe. He said they’d lived in Pennsylvania, asked if I came from Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry, and when I told him I did, he asked my maiden name. ‘Van Curen,” I replied, and his wife Janet’s eyes widened.

“That was my grandfather’s middle name!” she said, as amazed as I was.

Given what I knew about the history of the family name, and that part of the family had moved from New York, where the family started as Van Keulen (meaning “from Köln”) in the early 1600’s, on the ”Island of Man Hats”, moving to Pennsylvania before some ventured west to Ohio and Indiana, I replied in surprise, “Then I suspect we must be cousins, several times removed!”

There aren’t that many of us ”Van Curen,” ”Van Keuren,” or any other spelling of the name in this country, about 381 families in the 1990’s according to another distant cousin. What are the odds I’d run into a distant cousin in the Southwest nearly 400 years after our mutual ancestors set foot on American soil? The British, in charge of the census and taxation in the country in the early 1700’s, wanted to do away with the Dutch custom of ”patronymics,” naming a son with his father’s first name as the child’s surname. For example, a man whose name was “Mathijs Jansen ” would have a son whose last name was “Matthyssen.” The family went back to the name “Van Keulen/Van Ceulen” in 1715, changing the ”l” to “r”. Hard to keep track for taxation, so the British anchored the surname as Van Keuren and the spelling became Anglicized to Van Curen.

Three hundred and two years later, on the other side of the continent, Janet and I realize we’re related! And what was God showing me? That nothing is impossible for Him, that He is still here for me and with me, that His love is unfailing, that he is my Father, and that in Christ Jesus Janet and I are related TWO ways! The Bible, and Jesus himself, make our relationship with God, and to each other through Jesus, crystal clear:

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 1 John 1: 12-13 NIV

Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.  So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3: 25-29 NIV

But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12: 48-50 ESV

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 1 Corinthians 12: 12-14 NIV

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:9-17 NIV

So what? So even if you don’t have a single living blood relative, even one removed by several hundred years like Janet and I probably are, you have millions of brothers and sisters in the Family of God. And that tells me I should have kind regard for my sisters and brothers in Christ, and more than that, I know my “Papa” would love for me (yes, and you) to encourage people who don’t know the love and relationship Abba offers us through Jesus to come to recognize him and receive him as the ONE who makes that very real relationship with Almighty God very real and very possible.

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. Psalm 145:18

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 3: 19-23 NIV

So what business of mine is it if people don’t hear about relationship with God through Jesus? Is that my concern? I’ve heard a lot of sisters and brothers in Christ say, “My faith is a very personal, private matter to me…” Well…. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable telling people about your Savior Jesus, or maybe you don’t want to risk ridicule and rejection, BUT I’m thinking If it concerns my Father, it oughta concern me! Here’s why I believe I do have a responsibility to “let my LIGHT shine” (and by “my light” I mean let Jesus shine through me with HIS light so the focus is on HIM, and be quick to say it’s HIM, not me, as the motivation to do good)

 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. 2 Peter 3: 8-12 NIV

Maybe my discovery with Janet came at Christmas time because God wants to remind me to show grace in the aisles of the crowded grocery store, thank clerks and other service people for their help, and wish them “Merry Christmas”. Maybe just as importantly, God wants to remind me (and yo9u by this post) that he IS my loving FATHER, my PAPA, who gave me the greatest gift I ever could receive when he sent Jesus into this world as a helpless infant, feeling and knowing what it is to be human, with the purpose to give his life for mine so that I can live forever as God’s chosen, delighted in child. THAT is something to joyfully celebrate! And hey bro, sis, let’s celebrate the daily chance to help this family grow!

 

Here God is again …

IMG_1778God surely knows how much I/we need Him, His Presence,  His affirmation,  His love in my life/our lives.Today again, perfect timing in the midst of a “goof” I made in the time of an  appointment. Being over an hour early, I decided to run to the bank to take care of something I’ve needed to.First the map app on my phone directed me toward  the wrong bank (and my duh, when I didn’t see the first entry was an ad, not the search I’d  put into my phone). I did a quick course correction, found a branch of my bank, and met with a friendly, positive banker, then had to leave the bank while the request was being processed to go back to the appointment, which was a great connection with an accountant who is a man of faith.

An hour there, then back to the bank, but the banker I’d worked with was at lunch. Okay, pop across the street to Taco Bell, and oh look at that: the second bank I needed to visit had a branch right on the  same corner!  Check off that from my list, hop across the street, meet quickly with the banker with the change all finished.

Hmm… now can I go to the county offices to see about getting a new passport? I slip right in, find out what I need, and the clerk tells me that there’s a Costco just down the street where I can get my necessary photos at one-third the price of the drug store. Super! Drive down to Costco, have the (why are they always so unflattering?) photo taken, and then I dutifully stand at the corner of the counter, right at the entrance to the store, while I wait for the pictures to be processed. Less than five minutes into my waiting time, who should come pushing a cart  right past me but Kate, a friend from a Christian singles group and Sunday School class whom I haven’t seen in three years!

Coincidence?  All of those other errands and timing, my mistakes included, had to happen in exactly the  right timing for me to be there when Kate came into the store!

Yes, it was wonderful to see Kate, catch up with her, share a hug and how tightly we’ve both had to hang onto Jesus through troubled times. but the deeper message to me was God’s reassuring message, “I’m still here beside you, with you, still in control, and I still love you deeply! And yes, I  am able to lead you even in what you think  are your ‘mistakes!’”

Oh, thank you Jeremiah for speaking the truth: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

And thank you, David:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
    which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
    or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
    but the Lord’s unfailing love
    surrounds the one who trusts in him.

11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
    sing, all you who are upright in heart!  Psalm 32: 8-11 NIV

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.
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.  Psalm 143:8-910 NIV

I take to heart today the acronym I heard on the radio yesterday: I truly am a DORK –  Daughter Of the Risen King!

God Almighty, good Holy Spirit, again and again shows me he’s doing exactly what he says he will do. God keeps his promises, and his Word IS his true and faithful promises!

A “…BUT…” to pray: Lord, Holy Spirit, sometimes I think I must be the biggest  goofball on the planet, and often I  don’t feel your presence or your love, BUT you promise to lead me, so help me FEEL you in my heart, because you know how much I need that reassurance, help me trust you even when I don’t trust myself and can’t feel you beside me, and help me know you keep your Word and ___________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________, In Jesus’ name, amen, and Holy Spirit, today HELP me to listen and hear you _______________ ____________________________________________________________________________________.

 

 

Bougainbiscus, Butterflies, Silly Songs and Jesus Loves Me

He shows up where and when I don’t expect Him!

It turned out to be just Sandy and me  yesterday, off to “hike” (definition: walking leisurely, talking about the Lord, and interacting with docents and people on the trails) at the botanical gardens and then the zoo, taking advantage of our respective memberships. We walked unintentional circles at the garden, enjoying some funny pumpkin “sculptures” like the poor guy painfully covered in cholla and a couple of gourd-os sitting at a logs only  campfire  toasting s’mores. One of the docents who struck up a conversation with us didn’t even know  the pumpkins were there, so we pointed her to, it turned out, the tail end of the pumpkin walk.

In our conversation there I shared a possibly too true insight a friend made in a Bible study group several years ago. He suspected one of the things that went unobserved and unwritten about all the times Jesus went off by himself to pray was (no disrespect intended) Jesus slapping himself on the forehead and crying out, “Oy vey,  these yutzes! Father, how am I supposed to work with these yutzes??!!” The fact that we’d steered the docent in the wrong direction only emphasized the likelihood of the Lord’s possible prayer …..

We  passed a beautiful red-flowered plant unknown to either Sandy or me. It looked like a cross between a Bougainvillea and a hibiscus, and though I don’t remember it’s scientific name, we decided it must be a bougainbiscus.  We listened to another docent manning a table of blooms, and he pointed us in the right direction to go see the butterfly pavilion, which was wonderful. Fluttering, flitting beautiful wings were all around us, and I state publicly that the fact it  takes four generations of monarch butterflies to make the round-trip migratory journey, and the great-grandparents of the returning lepidoptera aren’t around to tell their great-grandoptera where “home” is, clearly tells me there IS a Creator,Intelligent Designer, and Architect of all the wonders in the world. We wandered around trying to find our way out of the wildflower loop and drove down the road to the zoo.

More natural wonders awaited us on trails there: Komodo dragons, whose bite is venomous, so all they have to do is bite their prey  and wait for it to die; orangutans strong  enough to rip your arm off, but who spend their lives in the wild high up in trees and make “nests” in the  branches for sleeping; giraffes, and enough said about their incredible design. I truly enjoyed my two years of  working at the real zoo, after thirteen years of  substitute teaching in a very different ”zoo” setting. We encountered Hannah, one of Sandy’s friends from her church who works at the zoo while she’s attending seminary,  and since  she was being trained to drive  the  train (yes, pun intended) I told her about the songs I wrote for about ten animals the train passes. She said she’s be glad for me to send them to her.

We bought sandwiches for lunch, sat down on the benches around a shaded table, and continued sharing about some of the”God-incidences” in our lives., when an older woman pushing a young child in a stroller politely asked if she could shar our table, and we replied we were happy to share the shade.Since I know personally about the early childhood programs there, I asked if the boy was her grandson, and then told her about the wonderful breakfast programs that are an adult’s “ticket” to get up close to  some  of the animals in the zoo’s collection. I asked Paul, who’sfour, if I could sing a song for him, and commenced into, ”Keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ in your muddy hole ’n’  keep your body rollin,’ warthog ….” to a tune only older adults always laughed at.

Being a bit humorous and silly seems to break the ice. Noting the cross necklace the grandma wore, I asked,”Are you a Believer?”

“Believer in what?” she replied.

I held up my own cross necklace and said,”In this.”

“I sure am!” she smiled, and a new door opened up for us to share about our  faith. Even though we are in different denominations, Jesus’ sarificial death on the cross – God Himself paying the horrendous penalty for humanity’s rebellion against God’s Holy authority and Righteousness AND love for us all – unites Christians of every “flavor.” So together we said the opening line, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible  tells me so!”

And here’s what it says:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23

BUT “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

And expanding on Romans:23 “Forallhave sinnedandfall short of the glory of God, AND  ARE JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – He (God) did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have  faith in Jesus.” Romans 3”23-26

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.  Romans 5: 5-11 NIV

God is Just, AND God is Love. Neither cancels the other. Only one unites them both perfectly: Jesus,Y’shua, however you say his name in your language. Jesus said:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23 And after a long passage of “Woes,” Jesus cried out to Jerusalem with fierce love and longing to  bring everyone there into his loving, sheltering arms.

It’s BOTH Justice AND Mercy, in one perfect person to satisfy both. And how utterly amazing, relentless, selfless, pure and passionate is the heart of God who Himself teaches, leads, forgives, heals, bleeds, rises from death, justifies and redeems us!

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace  with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need… because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God  through him, because he  always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 4:15-16, 7: 24-25 NIV

In Jesus we can drop the censure we hear and feel from ourselves and from others, and become, in praising and thanking God for his incredible gift of love, the incense in the censer held by our Great High Priest Jesus, rising up in a fragrant offering to the One who makes us pure, loved, and joyfully pleasing to God.

The pumpkins and butterflies and orangutans  and squirrel monkeys were fun, but sharing with “Mimi” and little Paul was pure joy!

My/your/our takeaway?  Jesus is wherever I/you/we go, and all I/you/we need to do is be open to him walking, sitting, driving, golfing, working, eating. being with us to share him with others.  That’s HIS joy! Behold what manner of love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God! And when Jesus drops into my life with connections like this, I feel the intense, outrageous love  that he IS! Love alive, love present, love embracing, love forgiving (oy vey!) and love overcoming.

a”…BUT…” to pray today: Father God, loving Lord jesus, sometimes I  don’t  sense your love for me. Sometimes I feel all too much my “yutz-ness” and all I sense is the censure of others, BUT you promise that your love never fails and you will never, ever leave me, ,so I’m asking you to show me your love, and you get to decide how, when and where. Feel welcomed into my life to surprise me,  Jesus! In your name I pray, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening, waiting AND watching __________________________________________________________

 

 

 

A Butterfly on Half Dome

IMG_1326

I walked into the customer service waiting area at the car dealer’s, waiting for an oil change for my car. Ah, American that I am, with people in nearly every chair in the waiting area, where was I to sit? Sitting down next to a complete stranger seems like an invasion of their privacy. I looked around, then did the un-American-cultural act and sat down next to woman who was watching the television screen on the wall to our right.

Local morning news, a reporter interviewing a botany professor at the community college. I helped myself to the  free coffee, then picked up the book I’d brought, but the video of a monarch butterfly on the news caught my attention, and I casually turned to the woman sitting to my left and said,”Wow, the migratory story of monarch butterflies is incredible.”  I shared what I knew from my time working at  the zoo, and she  agreed with me that the fourth generation of monarch butterflies traveling from their winter birthplace hundreds of miles back to the place where the first generation great-grandparents had started was nothing short of miraculous.  I ventured,”I KNOW that’s no accident of evolution;  that’s the hand of a Creator.”

She smiled and readily agreed, and that began a forty minute conversation that turned deeper than either of us expected, I’m sure, when we drove to the dealership that morning.  She’d grown up in Phoenix; me,too. Shirley is part Native American and part Hispanic, married to a man from Kokomo, Indiana.  Hmmm….. “We were just in Kokomo  two months ago  for a wedding,” I commented. More  commonalities emerged, including butterflies and beauty in nature that points to an  intelligent, loving Creator God, and before we  knew it, we were talking about deep things of our faith in Jesus. I held her hand and prayed for one of her family members, and she received the prayer gladly.

The service  person returned to tell me my car was ready, smiled, and added,”But you two ladies can continue with your conversation!” She stood as I got up and we hugged each other, knowing full well  that our meeting wasn’t accidental. I didn’t get her phone number, but I know we exchanged something  more  valuable that morning. Both of us felt God’s deep love and presence, and I felt the Holy Spirit leading me higher in  my climb with Him up steep slopes of God’s path for me, “Hind’s Feet On High Places.”

I’m always floored by God showing up through the “cracked pot” and ”empty hose” that I am, and I always know it’s ONLY God who’s doing the connecting and work. Often I marvel and wonder that a Holy, Righteous, Almighty God somehow chooses and desires to move through the mass of organic matter that is me. It MUST ONLY be because I/you/we invite and welcome and, many of us, desperately long for, God’s very own Holy Spirit to  come indwell me/you/us. I generally don’t “wax religious,” because repetitious religious ritual means next to nothing. My faith is relationship with my Creator andSavior. Still today I proclaim”Solo Deo Gloria”, to God alone be the Glory!

 

Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LordRepeat them in our day, in our time make them knownin wrath remember mercy…Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3: 2, 17-19 NIV

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

3 I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.As for God, his way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
 he shields all who take refuge in him.31 For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?32 It is God who arms me with strength    and keeps my way secure.33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;    he causes me to stand on the heights.34 He trains my hands for battle;    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.35 You make your saving help my shield,    and your right hand sustains me;    your help has made me great.36 You provide a broad path for my feet,    so that my ankles do not give way.  Psalm 18: 1-3, 31-16 NIV
In the often barren, rocky places I’ve walked in the past eight years (including the times I’ve wandered off the easier path He had for me), God  has continually come alongside me to refresh me with His Presence, His “winks,”  and I am  grateful every time! Shirley at the oil change was another “kiss on my cheek” from our faithful,  ever-present Lord, King, Friend, Savior, and Guide.
Then Job answered the LORD and said, 2″I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Job 42: 1-2 NAS
Dominion and awe belong to Him Who establishes peace in His heights. Job 25: 2 NAS
Whew, am I glad for this promise! I do NOT have the power to mess up God’s plans for my life! I may – make that certainly –  have delayed them, or  taken a harder road than I  needed to, to come into God’s plans for me, but no, neither you nor I have wandered so far from God’s path and purposes, power and loving care that He can’t come beside you, rope Himself to you, and lead you even up on the steep, high places safely.
Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.
5 The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.
6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
10 The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
20 We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33: 1, 4-11, 16-22  NIV
Surely, Shirley was God’s  reminder to me of His  ever-present, ever-powerful love. Eight years ago I began a long journey with this song, believing  then for a quick, victorious end that I have yet to see, and here I am again, leaning into the ONE who’s roped me in with HIM as I climb to higher places than I can see, even now.
A “…BUT…” to pray: Lord God, I admit I’ve probably made my journey harder.  I know I’ve lost sight of You when ______________________________________________ BUT You’ve never lost sight or track of me, and I can see you carried me when _____________________________, so I will to will, I want to want, what You  know is best for me. Lead  me, Savior Jesus, Holy Spirit, Father God, and help me to stay close to You behind Your shield and to hear Your voice and follow where You long to take me. In Jesus’ name, amen, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening __________________________________