The Shadow Tells All

Cover off, God’s parable on!

Child of the 50’s that I am, I still remember the radio (what’s that, you ask?) detective program titled “The Shadow,” and the slogan that came at the beginning of every program: “Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man? The Shadow knows!” This morning I finally went out to the back yard to hit the elliptical on the porch around 7:15, already warm with the sun rising above the mountains. As I “loped” along to my inspirational music on my phone, I noticed the shadow of something long and thick in the pool. Hmmm…what could that be from? Peering intently into the pool, I saw a small twig floating. Aha! Not a snake or a log after all – just a small, twisted twig.

Two thoughts immediately came to me :

1: Sometimes people like to “cast a large shadow” before others, looking larger than they are, and I know that’s out of an actual sense of inferiority/invalidation/lack of importance. When you examine that person, you see the truth that they aren’t as “big” as they like to project they are. Hmm… have I ever done that, Jesus?

2: I’m a pretty small twig in the grand scheme of things, as are my sisters and brothers in Christ, but even a twig, with the Light of the World behind it, can make an important “reflection” and impact if and when the shadow we “cast” is the shadow of the redemptive work of Jesus on the Cross. Hmm… does my life really count for you and your Kingdom, Jesus?

Fast forward two hours to the Monday worship intercession group. Today we’re very much in 1 Corinthians 2: 2-16 (Amplified Version):

“As for myself, brethren, when I came to you, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony and evidence or mystery and secret of God {concerning what He has done through Christ for the salvation of men} in lofty words of eloquence or human philosophy and wisdom, for I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified… So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men (human philosophy), but in the power of God….For who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord so as to guide and instruct Him and give Him knowledge? But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart.”

I realized God’s thought to me through that stick fit with what we were focusing on today: our own humility and “twig” stature, and yet God loves us so much that HE gives us thoughts from HIS own mind, heart and being, so the “shadow” we cast in our thoughts, words, and actions bears, conveys, and prayerfully reveals the mind and heart of Jesus to others! We all agreed we’re quite happy to be “twigs”!

Fast forward to one o’clock, after the meeting, when I zipped down to the grocery store to pick up a few things. Yay, I found a parking space under a tree, and I waited for the young man gathering up the shopping carts to walk across the lane and get to the side of the building. For whatever reason (nudge), when I walked to the sidewalk, he was still there, going back for a few more carts. I told him thanks for doing his job and getting carts for us in the hot sun, and that began a small conversation about working out in the heat. I shared about a job where I had to do that, and said again I appreciated his work. He told me he doesn’t make much money at the job and rarely hears thanks, and I went on my way.

But that nagging nudge inside me told me our conversation wasn’t over, so after shopping and checking out, I saw him again pushing some carts toward the storefront. I turned my cart and walked toward him, and gave him a single dollar, telling him it came from Jesus, small as it was. He expressed his appreciation, then said, “This isn’t the job I want to have forever. I actually studied music in college, and I write music.
That’s what I want to do for a living someday.”

I asked if I could pray with him, and I did, asking the Creator who put that gift in the young man to open doors of opportunity for him to walk in his gifting and calling. He said, “You must be a hard-core Christian,” and I just smiled and told him I love Jesus and like to pass God’s love along to others. Oh, kind Creator God, I truly hope and pray what that young man, whose name I don’t even know, saw Jesus, not me, in that brief shadow this twig prayerfully, hopefully cast today! I may never see him again or hear the outcome of the words I know God’s Holy Spirit gave me to encourage him, but that’s okay. I’m a twig who casts a shadow of the Cross of Jesus, and that’s all that matters.

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father… FOR IT IS GOD WHO WORKS IN YOU TO WILL AND TO ACT ACCORDING TO HIS GOOD PURPOSES.” Philippians 2: 1-11, 13 (NIV)

A “… but God….” for you to pray and think about today: Father God, I am just a small twig in the great scheme of things, BUT you’ve invested some of yourself in me, in my abilities, inclinations, gifts and heart. It’s really YOU living through me anyway, so help me feel YOUR nudges and know that being “just a twig” is meaningful when YOU’re with me and love through me. Give me courage to know and simply live before others, so YOU can __________________________________________________________________________, and remind me always that it’s YOU behind me, casting the powerful, meaningful, purposeful shadow! Jesus’ Name, with thanks, by the Holy Spirit, for God’s Glory and victories and transforming love in the lives of others AND me, amen!

An Improbable Avenue from an Omnipotent God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O the Depth of Love Divine

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


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

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

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

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

Once again I have to be amazed that

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

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

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

“No.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All those open doors for God to pour Christ’s light into!

Capistrano beach sand heart

 

 

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.Colossians 4: 2-6 NIV

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9: 4-5

 

Twice in as many days, and this isn’t to honor me ,but  to brag on God and His timing and open doors, his loving, caring, compassionate heart, and what happens if we’ll just be, as Patsy Clairmont said in the title of her humorous devotional book,”Cracked Pots” who let the Light shine through our humanity. On Tuesday morning at the opening women’s ministry meeting, I hung my purse on a chair, only one woman I didn’t  know sitting there , brought back a plate of fruit, and began engaging in conversation with the four  other women at the table. Nothing earth-shaking – just friendly conversation. That led to me  connecting with Peg. She told me  later  she was a bit unsure but got the Holy Spirit’s nudge to talk with me. And the result was me being able to drive Peg to the Tuesday night Healing Room at Two Rivers Church, to intercessors  who’ve blessed me many times, so she could get some words from the Lord. When I heard the laughter coming from the prayer room, I knew I’d done the right thing, and Peg indeed got her “socks blessed off.” Way to go, Abba God!

Then this morning, for whatever reason, I decided to pop into the grocery store I’d visited on Tuesday to see if any of the reduced price protein drinks were still there. so I pull into a parking  lane and wait for the older (says she who is 68!!) woman to  walk  by before I pull into a spot. She’s getting a cart at the entrance as I walk up, and she motions me to go ahead,  but  I say,”No,  please go  ahead.” As she walks in, she jokingly says, “Open sesame!”  and I reply, ”Oh, you must be magic !” That  silly little exchange opened the door  for her to share that she’dpaid a large bill by check, put it in the mailbox,  but the letter carrier dropped  that envelope, someone picked it up, “washed” the  pay to line,  and chased her check. Now she was in a tight financial  bind. I touched her  shoulder and prayed with her for God to bring her vindication, and restitution, and she thanked me and  said, “Amen!”

Twice  in two days straight, after Carol had shared on Monday about being Holy Spirit-nudged to pray  with a woman  in the produce section of Wal-Mart, motivated by the lack of plastic bags readily available! And Melanie on Tuesday driving back to give some encouragement and affirmation to a woman she’d passed, standing on the sidewalk,  who said  thanks  after Melanie simply said hello to her! Linda’s had those encounters, and so have Donna, Libby, Lily, the other Carol, Yolanda, Val, Debbie, Julia ……

It ain’t me!  It doesn’t just happen to me! It’s God pouring out HIS light, love, encouragement, empathy, compassion, smile, validation, affirmation, acknowledgement  to people who need a bit of light, a word of cheer, and breath of hope from The Almighty Himself, just poured out through us “cracked pots”!! All we need to do and  be – all YOU need to do and – is available and ”cracked” enough to get over yourself and your insecurity (yes, I get it; me, too!) and start a conversation! I’ve lost track of how many times God has done this through. (See my past post about “Connect the Dots” for a few more).

Oh,Rose and ________________  (fill in your name), why do you ever doubt Jesus loves you?Why do you ever doubt the Holy, Almighty, Creator and King of Kings DOES want to live and love through you,to be a vessel of His Light and Love and Truth and Word on Earth?! Why do you think you’re the power that moves in these Divine encounters? As in the opening words of the book The Purpose-Driven Life, “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!”

Soooo …… as Jesus told us, HIS “disciples” meaning “sent ones,” “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9: 4-5  Carry HIS Light! Be that “cracked pot” that God’s  Light can shine through. Night IS coming, and we need to  get out into the Harvest fields of people all around us and share God’s  Love through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit who DOES live in you and me and us who call ourselves Christ Followers, not just Sunday morning  pew warmers. 

Your”…BUT…”to pray: God, I admit it ,sometimes I’m downright too insecure and chicken  and people-pleasing/people-fearing to open my mouth and say hello to someone, much less pray  WITH them, BUT YOU ARE ABLE, so help me get over myself and_______________________________________and help me SEE  the next open door YOU open in front of me so I can help someone who needs to see and experience YOUR LIGHT of LOVE right then and there. Holy Spirit – gulp – I know YOU will help me, so I ask this in Jesus’ Name, amen!

Capistrano beach sand heart

Making the most of the sands of time

On No One’s Coat tails…

“I see a generational line of pastors and teachers in your family line. I feel a sense of culmination to this point in history, that you are facing a giant, a battle, which has been ordained that you should fight ….” She’d never met me before, had no idea who I am, and yet the words Charity spoke were solid, right on.  How could she know there are pastors and preachers in my mother’s mother’s  family line, including my great-Uncle, and many before him?

Even with this heritage,though, I know that I know that I  know that I can’t call myself Christian because any of my ancestors were.Christianity is not an ethnicity, not an inheritance passed down by your parents. Sitting for decades in  church doesn’tmake you Christian any more than sitting weekly in the garage makes you a car or  wading in the ocean till you’re pruny makes you a tuna! Christianity, being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, not just a lip-service pew sitter, comes down to one thing and one thing only: a personal choice to acknowledge that 1)yes, I am a sinner,  2)yes, sin (even one) separates me from relationship with a Holy God, 3) no, I can’t  possibly DO anything to merit  God’s grace 4) Jesus made  the ONe and ONLY fully adequate, fully covering, fully atoning sacrifice of his own life on the cross to pay the  Blood price for my forgiveness required by my sins and 5) I have to REPENT AND CHOOSE and daily choose  to live in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice  for me,  receiving God’s unmerited grace, favor, unfathomable mercy, forgiveness and matchless love.

MY SINS – CHRIST’S DEATH ON THE CROSS. What an almost unimaginably priceless, inconceivably costly gift, freely given by Jesus! And all I have to do is agree with God  that I’m a sinner in desperate need of His grace to receive it  and walk forever, here and in Eternity, in joyful fellowship and relationship with My Righteous Father God Almighty! No, that doesn’ t give me license to keep on willfully sinning. What a slap in the face to Jesus that would  be, to think I could presume upon his boundless,  pure  mercy and live in a way that dishonors, trivializes,  and disgraces God’s costly  gift to me! I receive his unmerited grace, mercy, forgiveness  and love, and out of reverential gratitude and eternal thanks, I choose  to live to please, honor, serve and worship God Almighty, helped daily by God’s Holy Spirit present with me.Do I blow  it sometimes? Yes, and then I’m right back on my knees confessing, repenting, and staying in relationship with God as his chosen daughter. Yes, God chose every single one of us before the foundations of the Earth, that we should come to know his boundless love and live in fellowship with HIM. And yes, God “recklessly” gave us the freedom to accept His Gift or go our own  way, trusting in our own goodness, which God’s Word says is like filthy rags, instead of in the freely given Righteous Blood of Jesus ALONE.

This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long. Who do YOU choose  to worship, choose, revere,love,  follow, and trust?  Today I quote an entire chapter. These aren’t just my thoughts, but  thoughts straight from God’s Holy Spirit, yes through a human being, but not humanly reasoned out! We’d think  “religion” is enough. God knows how inadequate anything  but the Blood of Jesus truly is (my bold):

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’[a]

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
    after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds.”[b]

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
    I will remember no more.”[c]

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

A Call to Persevere in Faith

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 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. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”[e] 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”[f]

38 And,

“But my righteous[g] one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”[h]

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Hebrews 10 NIV
Who in their  right mind would refuse boundless  love and grace,  freely given, despite their failures, rebellion and weaknesses?
10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep.  John 10: 10-15 NIV
NO  “But’s…” about it: not Great Uncle Cyrus,  not great-great-grandpa whoever, no building, no just  words creed, no mindlessly recited prayers, nothing and NO ONE and NO WAY but Jesus, now and forever, PRICELESS LOVE, amen!

If Google Maps asks if I want to “Re-center”……

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 8.35.16 AM So yesterday I’m driving to the house of a friend,and I’ve never been there before. I plug in the address on Google Maps on my phone and click “start”, but all I’m getting is the audio instructions as I drive. I don’t see where I am, and I don’t see where I’m going. then I notice the little box that says “RECENTER.” Voila! Now I see where I am, where I’m hoping to go, and what’s ahead of and around me.I know where I am, and I know where I need to go.

Fast forward to today on  my elliptical on the back porch. I’m striding on ”Ellie,” as we fondly call it, listening to my inspirational playlist, starting with Michelle Tumes “Lovely,” and moving on to “Be Thou My Vision,” when Voila! I realize that for too long, and too often still, I’m “centered” on the wrong person/place/thing. In astrophysical terms,  I’m”orbiting” the wrong”sun.” Ineed to remind myself dailyto RECENTER and train, focus my vision and spiritual eyes on the “star” I truly need to “orbit,” the”destination” I need to focus my life journey upon: the One and ONLY SON Of GOD, Jesu Christ, Yeshua, “My Messiah and King” as the next song comes up.

Oh, people can shine so brightly in our lives and the “clutter”  all around us can disorient us so easily! How do I know? Because it still happens to me sometimes! My Gracious Lord and God, Father,the only truly Righteous One in my life,thank you for your nudges and reminders that I need to RECENTER my life  map, my day, my journey, my hopes, my trust,  my destination in YOU ALONE!

Short and simple  today,  but I know this is true! O God  my Father, the Lover of my soul,help me RECENTER on WHO YOU ARE, WHO YOU SAY I AM, WHERE YOU WANT TO TAKE ME ON MY ROAD TO YOU! Here’s somehelp for us all, on “Bible Maps” :

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Romans 8:1 ESV 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:6 ESV

And raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Galatians 2:20 ESV 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

1 John 5:20 ESV 

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

 

Hebrews 13:5  Keep  your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
2 Peter 3:9 ESV The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
1 Peter 4:8 ESV Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 2:9 ESV But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
This is WHO God is, WHO Jesus is, who I am, and where THE GREAT I AM wants me to point my life. How about you?

We ARE the Body of Christ

 

Wow,  and again, wow. God proves his Word is true, alive, active, and powerful.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” …. 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. Corinthians 12: 12-21,25-27 ESV

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4: 15-16 ESV

Yesterday morning just before I awoke, God’sHoly Spirit put a face and a name into my consciousness: the face of a Believer I’d met about five years ago, briefly knew, and hadn’t seen or heard from since then. Immediately I woke up and wondered why God brought that face and name into my spirit and mind. My first thought was this person might  need prayer, God’s help in something, or perhaps to know God was thinking about him and wanted him to clearly know and trust  that God was hearing his prayers and moving to answer them.

I’m two cell phones away from the one I had five years ago, and some of my contacts got lost in the transitions,so I had no way to contact this person. I  thought I remembered the church he attended then, looked it up online, and called and left a message with the receptionist, who said she’d pass the message along to the  right person on staff. Still the God encounter stayed fresh in my mind all day, and last night I thought to check an online social site to see if he was there. Sure enough, so  I sent a friend request,which he replied to shortly after.

Gathering my courage – and yes, I  need it at the times I sense  God wants to share something with someone else through me (still saying yay, Jessica, for  that “accidental” meeting in the street, and Cate, for “coincidentally” sitting behind you and Len at church that one Sunday morning, that connected dots to connect me with some amazing  sisters in Christ !) –  I messaged him with  the story about God waking me up  with his face and name in my thoughts. Wow, God! He responded with two issues he’s  been praying about recently. So …. I “coincidentally” me him in 2013-ish, lost contact, and five years later God plants a prayer in my spirit when I  didn’t know for sure that’s why God nudged me???!!!

Holy, Sovereign Lord Jesus, truly YOU  are the head of YOUR BODY the church, and we ARE all members of each other, connected by the same “neurons” and ”central nervous system” and “BLOOD flow.”  Why, oh why, do we ever  focus on our doctrinal differences or ignore God’s call to  minister/deliver/do/send something from our HEAD JESUS to another “cell” in the body? If God puts a brother or sister in Christ (or for Heaven’s true sake, an unbeliever or neighbor or that person in the grocery store or on the walking path) as a blip on your “radar” and into your thoughts, even if his voice is a whisper or a “hmmm….” or a whoosh in a dream, listen, ask our Head/LORD Jesus, and then GO! SPEAK! SHARE! GIVE! DO! DARE TO BELIEVE YOU ARE HEARING GOD’S VOICE, AND YOUR LIFE MATTERS TO THE WELL-BEING OF THE ENTIRE BODY OF JESUS CHRIST!

Other people,  total strangers, have relayed God’s messages to encourage me, and every one of them (Don, Charity, Karen, Joyce, Jasmine, Joy, Jane, Gary, Wei Wei, Clarissa, Gary,  Steve … and unknown intercessors  and the lady I never  met at  Living Water  Church  who sent the index card to me via Benjamin) has blessed me and helped me to stand on the waves with Jesus in the storms in my life and not go under.

So, cells of Christ Jesus’ WHOLE BODY, get over yourself and your uncertainty and “what if I make a fool of myself or they think  I’m weird” insecurity, belong to JESUS THE KING, stay connected, hear him, come alive and BE there for each other through HIM!

The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples,
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. Isaiah 50: 4 NASB                                                

and “A disciple of Christ is one who (1) believes his doctrine, (2) rests on his sacrifice,(this does not mean rests from living as/does nothing as an active servant and messenger of Jesus) (3) imbibes his spirit, and (4) imitates his example” (www.biblestudytools.com)3101 mathētḗs (from math-, the “mental effort needed to think something through”) – properly, a learner; a disciple, a follower of Christ who learns the doctrines of Scripture and the lifestyle they require; someone catechized with proper instruction from the Bible with its necessary follow-through (life-applications).     biblehub.com/greek/3101.htm

He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven…. 2: 9 for in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority… 2: 13-14When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Colossians 1: 14-23, 2: 9, 13-14 NASB

So “sent ones, imitators of jesus’ example” are you going?  And Denny,  I’m glad I got  the message for you, and yes, God hears the prayers  of your heart and wants you to know so!

A  big “…BUT…” to pray and move: Oh, God, Lord Jesus, yes I’m just one person, one hash mark on the census chart and anonymous face on the street to other people, BUT YOU ARE LORD AND GOD AND GOOD, ALIVE AND MOVING, CARING, LOVING, AND SPEAKING, and Jesus, YOU ARE MY LORD,  MASTER, TEACHER AND EXAMPLE,  AS WELL AS THE ONE WHO MAKES ME ABLE, so help me get over my own ______________________________________________, and if some people think I’m weird, so be it, for the sake of those WONDERFUL times when you truly do want-long-desire for me  to carry your words, your Word, your love, your truth, your hope, your caring, your “Hey, I do see and hear you” to another person to spread YOUR glory, victories, hope, encouragement, faith and  persevering, pursuing, relentless love to people bobbing in the waves and storms who need what YOU can say and do and share and give through me your hose, your empty bucket, your vessel today, in Jesus’ name, by Your Holy Spriit, give me the guts to do it, Soli  Deo Gloria, amen!

Brief but true: God’s Nudges

Wow, I felt God’s nudge to walk around the block and pray with our elderly neighbor Dorothy, who took care of a disabled young man for 36 years. She’s in her 80’s, he’s in a care home now, but Dorothy  misses him, and HE misses her!  What a joy to get to deliver God’s joy IN Dorothy TO her. Walking back past a BMW convertible parked onthe street and a classic Mustang fastback in another neighbor’s driveway, I thought how cars, speed, money, power, possessions, looks and influence mean NOTHING to God, but a pure servant grace-filled heart like Dorothy’s gives God pure delight and is PRICELESS to Him!

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you Except to be just, and to love [and to diligently practice] kindness (compassion), And to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]? Micah 6:8 Amplified

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  1 Peter 3: 2-4 NIV

We get it, I admit I’m tempted to get it, all wrong when we weigh out what truly matters in life. In our consumer culture, as Pastor Gary Kinnaman said last night in speaking on depression, we Americans seem to all have an internal one-to-ten sliding scale by which we judge everything, and if someone or something doesn’t rank at ten, then it’s worthless or it couldn’t  possibly bring us “happiness” because it’s less than perfect.

Hmmm….Jesus spoke about what God Almighty views as valuable  and  joy-producing in Mathew 5: 1-12,  the well known but perhaps considered archaic, or at  least too painful to be valid or “useful”  or “relevant,”  Beatitudes:

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

I firmly believe Dorothy is “salty” and “shining”  and  beautiful and precious in God’s sight – God told me to tell her so. Gosh it’s  fun being His “telegram” deliverer!

THAT’s real happiness! Thanks, God, for Your nudges!

A “…BUT…” to pray:  (Psalm 119: 36-40) Turn my heart to Your decrees
and not to material gain. Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless;
give me life in Your ways. Confirm what You said to Your servant,
for it produces reverence for You. Turn away the disgrace I dread;
indeed, Your judgments are good. How I long for Your precepts!
Give me life through Your righteousness.

Almighty God, do I have my priorities messed up?  Am I looking for happiness in all the wrong places? I DO want to see the value in what YOU say is truly valuable, so Holy Spirit, Lord Jesus, give me YOUR new eyes to see worth and beauty in ______________________________________________ and help me to see myself as YOU see me. Show me what’s noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–the things  truly excellent or praiseworthy– so I can fix my attention,values, emotions, and thoughts on such things (Philippians 4:8)  and Father, change  my outlook and IN-look to match YOURS, in  Jesus name, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening __________________________________________________

 

I Stand Amazed in the Presence ……

princeofpeace13IMG_2258IMG_2261

It was simple. It was clear. It was filled with welcoming, acceptance, warmth and unity: people literally from all over the world meeting together in a park to celebrate the Resurrection and our oneness in the love and family of Christ. So it was no problem for me to invite passers-by to join us. Soon the chairs were  taken, and  folks sat on the stone wall around the meeting area, singing, listening to the singing, and listening to God’s clear invitation into the transformation of new life in Christ. I was  blessed,and I do mean blessed, to be able to talk to some of the people watching and passing by who didn’t know ”us” or why we were there.

One young woman from Asia chatted with me and I shared that we aren’t about religion, about forms anyways and traditions, as much as about the ONE who unites us all, traditional, Charismatic, high liturgy, non-denominational: Jesus, in relationship  with him, receiving God’s boundless love  through Christ. She said she sensed that,sensed a peace and love in me (which is Christ, not me!)  and knew this meeting must be about love. With plenty of food, why shouldn’t I/we invite people just walking by to come sit and eat with us and welcome them into the love we know and feel and walk in: not just  feel-good “limerence” love, but TRANSFORMATIONAL passionate, powerful love strong enough to change us from “world/leaf-eating simply existing caterpillars” into the new creation, significance and God’s purpose filled, Jesus-Holy Spirit-indwelling “butterfly” sons and daughters of God we were created to be?

This is one short post, but I don’t have to expound at length on the truth that Jesus WAS there with us,  yes in and through each ordinary people other, undeniably loving and extending  his hand and hope and value. I do truly pray these people will come again  on Sunday nights where the group  meets in Brian and Jessica’s house, just to sing and fellowship, and feel welcomed. nothing high  falutin’ , just the love of God in Jesus Christ.

10 He (Jesus) was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1: 10-14 N

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 Living Bible

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4: 10-11 NIV

What more do we need?

The women in this music video aren’t religious fanatics: they’re the ransomed, the redeemed,the sinners saved by grace, transformed to significance, purpose, and passion to see others find this same incalculable love, by unconditional  love through the  righteous Blood of Jesus and the unending love of  our Creator Almighty Father God!

Family, friends, please sing this at my “graduation party”!

The only “…BUT…” to pray today is BUT GOD ALMIGHTY AND JESUS LOVE ME, this I know, ENOUGH TO SUFFER, DIE AND RISE TO LIFE FOR ME!

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