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 _______________ ____________________________________________________________________________________.

 

 

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A Butterfly on Half Dome

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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 __________________________________

 

 

 

Here He Goes Again …

 

 

Waiting for the shore, and Amy, my “Dog and the log” of blogging lore.

Here goes God again, giving me a ”kiss” on my forehead. Truly, nothing can separate me/you/us from HIS love. In this post I start with God’s Word, which is TRUTH:

 

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 31-19 NLT

It started insignificantly enough, a phone call from a banker – connected by another banker at the grocery store where I, for whatever reason, chose to go two days ago to deposit a check in the small branch office there – about meeting to talk about the investment we want to make. (I just perhaps annoyingly wrote a sentence almost as long as one of the Apostle Paul’s!) I could hardly hear him over the noise of the carwash where I was waiting for my car. After all the cleaning and vacuuming, I called him back from my clean car, and God overflowed in our conversation! Dot-to-dot again! Get out your pencil and follow this:

1) He’s Christian, genuinely, not just a practicer of religious ritual once a week. 2) We both have two sons. 3) His parents were on staff of a large church in Los Angeles, and you’d know the name if I dropped it. 4) The founder of that church previously founded a solid church in Phoenix in the 80’s. 5) The solid church in Phoenix birthed a daughter church in Mesa. 6) That daughter church was the church I became a member of in 2001. 7) His mother has been active in women’s ministry for decades. 8) I have been, too, though not at her national level. 9) His mother has wanted to write a book for a long time. 10) I’ve written books with others, and one myself. 11) She lived for a time in Boston. 12) I lived in Massachusetts for four years and often visited Boston. 14) Part of her ministry is to abused women. 15) Unspoken commonality. 16) His parents now live in Prescott, Arizona. 17) He is passing my phone number along to his mother.

Did you catch all that? What part of this is “simply a banking coincidence,” and what would the odds be that this IS just coincidence? Boy, Holy Spirit, the pneuma of God, Ruach Elohim, keeps “blowing up my raft” as I float on still storm-tossed seas. I do pray I’m passing the final shoal and nearing the calm shore, BUT glory to God that He’s keeping me a float!

The song goes, ”Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise,” so I’m hereby keeping my part of the promise! Blessed be the name of the LORD!

No, I have no clear clue what this will yet be about, but God is in it, so I’m in! Jesus gets to steer this canoe still, and boy, I had no idea I was prophesying over my life when I spoke that analogy in a women’s ministry meeting (at that daughter church) and yes, often teachers have to learn in real life lessons what they teach others! Okay, God, I DO believe it: YOU are my pilot, my stern (as in rear) paddler, the one directing this raft’s passage. Help me ship my paddle and rest as YOU steer – and You know what a challenge that is to me when my mind goes a mile a minute and I think I know where I’m headed (but I can’t see around the bend as YOU DO!).

So true confession today, like many of you, I have a hard time emotionally letting God have HIS way in my life even though intellectually I know His will for me is good, regardless of the waves and winds and floating logs (and floating things – I won’t use the slang term – my kids found in the waters lapping a beach in Asia) the enemy stirs up in my circumstances. I guess if I’m that much of a target for the enemy, it MUST mean I’m doing something right for Jesus and His Kingdom! I quote Jim Dennison of the Dennison Forum on that hard question of why God allows us freedom to choose and why He allows us to choose evil if we desire: “But I do know that he redeems all he allows and that he is love. The less we understand our Father’s ways, the more we need to trust his heart.”

Dear brothers and sisters,  when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

Believers who are  poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. 10 And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. 11 The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.

12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. 18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. James 1: 2-16 NLT

And mixing my metaphors, the words of Jesus about managing trouble:

20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Matthew 13: 20-23 NLT

 

May it be so, LORD Jesus, that this storm I’m still in scatters seed as far as Your wind of the Holy Spirit can take it, and may it land on good soil to produce good fruit, Kingdom purposes in lives who come to know YOUR endless love for them!

 

A “…BUT…” to pray: Lord, whew, in my own life I’m in the middle of ______________________ BUT You promise you will never leave me or forsake me, so I’m asking You to show me Your love and heart in a tangible way today, and I know You don’t begrudge me asking to see Your Goodness in my life! In fact, I’m trusting that my asking pleases You! In Jesus’ name, amen, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening _______________________________

 

 

 

Shaken,stirred, GOD spills over

Today’s “close encounter of the God kind” began as I put my gym bag in the car, singing “I stand, I stand in awe of You.” I walked  down the  sidewalk to see the pomegranates splitting open on the neighbor’s tree  when a car pulled up beside me. The tiny elderly lady driver, Lee,  got out and walked around to the sidewalk, then said in surprise,”Oh, you’re not Betty!”

That began a conversation about pomegranates, which Lee hadn’t  seen growing on a tree before. She  didn’t know how to eat them. Showing her the  pips inside one split fruit, we conversed genially about fruit, the house I’m in now and the first owner, the pomegranate seeds I pulverize in shakes I make for his grandson, and her tooth loss from Fosamax she took, as I did for a while, for her osteoporosis.  “Well, amazing God,” I thought instantly, ”Here today is the person YOU want to manifest YOUR glory and love TO and FOR and IN!”

So of course I asked Lee if I could pray for her, and off we went together holding hands before the Throne of God and the Healer Jesus , the SON sun of Righteousness who rose  with healing in His wings,

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” Malachi 4:2 NIV

That sun is the SON of God, Jesus,  Y’shua, the Living Word of God:

He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. Psalm 107: 20 KJV

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…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.15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God andis in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.  John 1: 1-5, 14-18 NIV

And silly me, I believe it! I believe it so deeply that I know when God’s Holy Spirit  taps me to pour out HIS love and hope and promises and miracles into a heart needing to hear and feel it. I shake inside when these encounters happen, not out of fear, but because the ONE in me is a greater power than my “cracked pot” can contain, and I know it. It’s NEVER me;  it’s always HIM! I don’t ever want to miss an  opportunity for God to be glorified in a life, lavishing His love and miracle power upon someone who may not know it or have felt it before, or for a long time. I may look like an idiot to some people, but the One whose  opinion I value is the  One whose glory and power and love I want to make room for in my “cracked pot.”

Lee then told me excitedly about an encounter she had in the discount store  when she caught her foot on a pallet and  fell. Thestore assistantasked her if she wanted them to call a paramedic,when a large man appeared out of nowhere, told her  he was an EMT, checked her over carefully, lifted her gently to her feet, and then disappeared!

“You know  that was an angel,” I ventured, and she readily agreed.  Oh, God, You ARE working in Lee’s life and want her to KNOW you know her, know her needs, and are  eagerly wanting to help her!

“What if God doesn’t rebuild Lee’s bones and teeth?” I can hear someone asking.

“Well, what if He WANTS to and DOES?!” is my reply. We who call ourselves Believers , who go by the name Christian, ought to be doing more on this Earth than taking up perfectly good, breathable oxygen. Prayer opens doors to miracles.

Love must be sincere. Detest what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.Outdo yourselves in honoring one another. 11Do not let your zeal subside; keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.… Romans 12: 9-10 NIV

“And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.”  1 Thessalonians 5: 14-15 RSV

I gave Lee a book of Scripture and encouragement, she pulled a huge box of chocolates out of her trunk for me, we hugged, and as she opened her car door,  she called, “I love you!”

“I love you, too!  And Jesus loves you even more!” I waved and called back. and as she drove away, I closed my eyes and said quietly, “Go for it, God! ‘Go for the  gold,’ Jesus!” I can’t wait to hear what God  does to prove His love, strength, and awesome creative Creator majesty to Lee!

 

Today I’m going  to let you create your own “…BUT…” to pray from this short beginning: Almighty God, my Father in Heaven, Lord and Creator, Savior Jesus, Holy Spirit, Glorious and Mighty One,  I AM a  cracked pot, BUT _______________________________________________________________________________! In Jesus’ name, AMEN!

Gott Sei Dank

One  thing almost intrinsic in me that Daniel and I do NOT share is a fondness for German music. I’m guessing I began appreciating it, and the country, the year my family spent in the small town of Enkenbach when I was ten, my father’s company sending us over there. In my fifth grade class in the Army school my brother and I attended, we had German language instruction. I don’t honestly remember if Frau Schultz came in daily or once a week to teach us, but, perhaps incredibly, I do clearly remember a song  and a poem I learned that year. (And why, I wonder, can’t I remember how to differentiate and integrate sines and cosines, something I learned much later?)

My memory  actually was useful two weeks ago, when I was getting up to move from the lateral machine to another in the recreation center. I started  toward the supply of disinfecting wipes, but the woman approaching the lateral machine told me not to bother, as she had her wipe handy. I detected an accent in her voice and asked where she was from. When she replied German, I said , “Vielen Danke. Voraus stammen Sie?” That began a conversation – auf Englisch –  and we quickly found in common that we’d both worked at a zoo, cared about the environment, and loved God! I gave her a copy of my book that I “coincidentally” (as if there are coincidences with God!) had in the bag I’d brought with me.

Earlier this week I saw Ilse at the rec center again, walked over, said hello, and again began a conversation. That silly song I’d learned in fifth  grade came into my head, and I began singing, “Fuchs du hast die Gans gestholen, gib Sie wieder her …” and Ilse joined in the song. The song about a fox  that stole a  goose isn’t important, except to lead into the truth today that all around you are absolute gems on two legs,  treasures in the people around you.

Ilse has been a gymnast, dancer, model, actress, music instructor, composer, and zookeeper! On Friday I called her and popped over to her house  for a short visit. That’s when I discovered so much inside this amazing woman.Most importantly,though, we shared our hearts and from  our  spirits, connecting at a personal level so quickly because we both knew God had been instrumental in our meeting.

Though the precious people of Zion were like fine gold, how they are valued like clay vessels, the handiwork of a potter!  Lamentations 4:2 NAS

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of[c] faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 2 Corinthians 4: 5-14 NIV

Money and power or influence seem to be the things we value and treasure in contemporary American culture. Too often we view other people for what they can do for us, how they can help us get ahead. If I see someone on the street who’s dressed poorly,  do I automatically assume that person has no worth? Conversely, if I see someone dressed in nice clothing, and for women, with dangling earrings and fingernails and toenails painted to match her outfit, do I attribute more worth and value  to her as a person? How clearly I see the rampant narcissism in our society, see how easily I myself am prone to make value judgments based on appearances! Lord God, deliver me from such materialism!

Two weeks ago Ilse was dressed in ordinary exercise clothes, just as I was, just as everyone else in the rec center. If I hadn’t thanked her and asked her a question, I would have “robbed”myself of a great blessing in getting to know her as a unique person created in God’s  image, created with gifting and talents and kindness and a longing, as we all have, to be known,valued, and to know and value others.

What value does God place upon us?

Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Matthew 10: 29-31 NIV

You are treasured by God your Father in Heaven! And – perhaps amazingly to you – so is that person next to you on the bus or at school or at work or in the grocery store. Treasured not for their net worth, but treasured because they, and you, are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared to be part of your purpose before you were even a glimmer in your father’s eye, for good works, for  advancing God’s Kingdom, for sharing the Good News about  Jesus, for being a reflection of HIS love and mercy and caring and forgiveness, healing, deliverance,  and HIS grace and HIS Truth on Earth. Ephesians 2: 10 Rose’s Paraphrased Version

Sing, Daughter Zion;
    shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
    Daughter Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away your punishment,
    he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
    never again will you fear any harm.
16 On that day
    they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
    do not let your hands hang limp.
17 The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3: 14-17 NIV

Gott Sei Dank! Thank God that he opens our eyes to each other, and to the treasure He  has deposited in each one of us. YOU are a treasure, and if you take time to open a conversation, so, I’ll bet, is that person next to you! Use things, LOVE people!

A”…BUT…” to pray: God,yes, I admit  I’m shy, or afraid, or not caring enough to really notice the people around me and consider that You’ve deposited something priceless into them – not something for me to USE,  but some treasure within who they are for me to discover and value. Even the ones not dressed like me, not driving a car, not  in the same church I attend, from another country or neighborhood or ethnicity. Help me,LORD, to see others as YOU see them, and help me overcome my own _____________________________ to know that YOU value me just because I’m Yours! Holy Spirit, who do I need to notice in a new way today?” Lord, I’m listening _________________________________________

 

No fog machies,no lights, no drums, no amplifiers, BUT God …

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Sunday morning, Kokomo, Indiana, driving back to Indianapolis, 1700+ miles of driving ahead of us, but we wanted to go to church, so we looked online to see if there were any Evangelical Free churches in Kokomo. Grace Fellowship popped up, so we fairly technologically savvy old timers put the address into our map search and navigated our way to the church.

We arrived early, in time to hear the trio (plus one young girl) warming up before the service. Small sanctuary, no fog machines, no high-tech lighting, just sunshine warmly pouring in through the marbled glass windows, reminding me of the church my family attended up north of Kokomo in my early childhood. No pianist that day, either (on vacation) and no electric or acoustic guitar, no drummer, just voices.

A few regular attenders were scattered throughout the building, so we walked up and took a pew near the front, a respectful few pews from the front row, and enjoyed the music. This church certainly didn’t look like, or have the “vibes” of the 10,000-member church I’d belonged to for ten years, or the 5,000-member church I belonged to for twelve years. It didn’t even look like the lively 60-member church I’d belonged to that met every Sunday in the town library. I could fully imagine that most contemporary American church-shoppers, er, -goers would be “underwhelmed” by the lack of “atmosphere,” but we were there to hopefully hear God’s Word and worship, so we stayed, and boy, were we GLAD we did!

No, the band didn’t suddenly show up, and in fact, the PowerPoint wasn’t working properly that day and we had to rely on our memories for many of the worship songs BUT GOD WAS THERE! Imagine that: the Almighty, The Holy One of Israel, the LORD on High, entered into that little building through the Holy Spirit rising up out of grateful, thankful, worshipful hearts of  maybe 30 people and God DID truly inhabit the praises of His people! We sang and sang, worshiped and worshiped, praised and praised, raised a few hands, and deep joy and warm love filled the room! Then God’s Word and Heart poured out through the obvious passion in the pastor’s heart. I’ve been part of a small group where the same thing happens in a living room every Monday morning, and talk about a paradigm shift!

What? You mean we don’t need the fog machines? We don’t need the dramatic changing colored lighting? We don’t need a darkened sanctuary and projected thrilling landscapes  on three screens up front?  We don’t need a thundering drummer? We don’t need amplified guitars and violins? WHAT KIND OF A SHOW IS THAT??????

Please don’t hear what I’m NOT saying: I’m not condemning drums, lights, or amplifiers, because I have truly worshiped with all of those present. I am raising a question, though: what do we think worship is, and where is it directed? Is worship the externals that stimulate our senses,  or is worship grateful connection and communication from our spirit and heart and being with our Father’s, God’s, own Spirit and Heart and Being?

Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.

Ascribe to the LORD, all you families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.  1 Chronicles 16: 23-29 NIV

 

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4: 21-24 NIV

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

 

The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. Great is the LORD in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations.

Let them praise your great and awesome name— he is holy. The King is mighty, he loves justice— you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right.

Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy. Psalm 99: 1-4 NIV

 

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Isaiah 29:13 NIV

 

But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 NIV

 

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29 NIV

 

So what I Am saying is that a handful of very ordinary people with nothing but their hearts and humility and voices CAN worship the LORD  in the beauty of His holiness in  simplicity and truth to such a degree that God delights in descending right there in their midst with His Presence – maybe not visibly, but perceptibly nevertheless –  and trust me, GOD is ENOUGH to make simple songs raised by normal voices into a conduit that brings Heaven to Earth.

Would you like to experience THAT on Sunday morning? Have you ever TRULY wanted to see His Kingdom come, and God’s will done on Earth as it is in Heaven, wanted it so much and desperately that your heart would break if it didn’t happen?

Then can I encourage you, next Sunday, or gosh, today in your own house or apartment, to bring an offering of your grateful heart, the certainty that HE is God and you are not,  and humble, glad thanks to God for loving and WANTING relationship with you?  Smoke and lights and drums or just your voice, trust Him to show up and see what He’ll do with your sacrifice of praise!

I’m daring you – and boy, going out on a limb asking God Almighty to prove Himself to you when you do –  to try it right now, wherever you are as youre’ reading this!

 (and yes, lift your hands and see how it feels!)

A”…BUT…”to pray: Father, Holy Lord, Almighty Everlasting God, all I have to give you right now is myself, grace-fully broken, BUT here goes, my words of thanks to you, and I’m trusting You, Holy Spirit, to come inhabit my praises ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

And thanks, Grace Fellowship Kokomo!

 

Marabel or Jezebel Or God’s Total Woman?

I’m thinking about the misguided advice in Marabel Morgan’s 1974 book Total Woman, which came out in 1974. Those were the days of tumult over feminism versus traditional womanhood, both rather muddled and culturally driven concepts. Quite a few of us young military wives on the base read that book, touted as it was as a Christian perspective, and young and naive as we were, I know some of my friends and I adopted some of her suggestions. But the book always smacked a bit to me of manipulation. Responding to a nudge today, I looked her up on Wikipedia, and this is a quote they had from her book, and reading it now makes me shudder at the downright ungodliness, not of her suggestions in and of themselves, but of the motivation behind them:

“It taught that “A Total Woman caters to her man’s special quirks, whether it be in salads, sex or sports,”[2] and is perhaps best remembered for instructing wives to greet their man at the front door wearing sexy outfits; suggestions included “a cowgirl or a showgirl.” “It’s only when a woman surrenders her life to her husband, reveres and worships him and is willing to serve him, that she becomes really beautiful to him,” Morgan wrote.

So … my husband is so brain-dead and flagrantly self-indulgent that the only way I can appear beautiful to him is if I make myself scantily clad slave Princess Leia on a chain to Jabba the Hut? That’s disrespectful to genuine, upright, mature, strong in their character men! I remember something in the book alluding to the way to get your husband to buy you new luggage, or whatever you wanted. Manipulation, idolatry, demeaning, slavery, groveling, demanding, treating men like craven infants, yech!

Where is true love, loving and honoring each other for the person on the inside? Where is challenging eachother to be the best person each can be, the truest, bravest, most honorable and caring? Where was Marabel’s truly biblical advice – rather God’s commandment – to worship and revere God alone, and serve God first and before all? Out of loving God, honoring and grateful for the sacrificial love God showed us in Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, we give love and honor to those around us, not to manipulate them or finnagle their love, but to truly love THEM as unique individuals created in God’s image, valuable because they are, and loved by God. I was willing to serve my husband, but not willing to enable or encourage him to do what God’s Word calls sin. I’m sorry, Marabel, because I was the tastefully creative one in the intimacy department, but if personal integrity made me “unattractive” to him, then was his love truly love, or was it also self-driven manipulation for selfish motives?

The Bible’s ”poster girl” for self-driven unscrupulous manipulation is Queen Jezebel. From her example, her name now means a conniving, seductive, manipulative woman.

King Ahab, indifferent to God’s commands to only marry a Jewish woman who worshiped God Almighty so he would not be led to worship false gods, married a foreign woman who worshipped other gods than the God of Israel, Yahweh, Olam El, the Lord God Almighty. Here is a summary of Jezebel’s life, from https://www.thoughtco.com/who-was-jezebel-2076726

Jezebel‘s story is recounted in 1 Kings and 2 Kings, where she is described as a worshiper of the god Ba’al and the goddess Asherah — not to mention as an enemy of God’s prophets. As King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel mandated that her religion should be the national religion of Israel and organized guilds of prophets of Ba’al (450) and Asherah (400).

As a result, Jezebel is described as an enemy of God who was “killing off the Lord’s prophets” (1 Kings 18:4).  In response, the prophet Elijah accused King Ahab of abandoning the Lord and challenged Jezebel’s prophets to a contest. (Elijah and the One True God won the contest, and fire from Heaven burned up the prophets of Ba’al)

Although Jezebel was one of King Ahab’s many wives, 1 and 2 Kings make it apparent that she wielded a considerable amount of power. The earliest example of her influence occurs in 1 Kings 21, when her husband wanted a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. Naboth refused to give his land to the king because it had been in his family for generations. In response, Ahab became sullen and upset. When Jezebel noticed her husband’s mood, she inquired after the cause and decided to get the vineyard for Ahab. She did so by writing letters in the king’s name commanding the elders of Naboth’s city to accuse Naboth of cursing both God and his King. The elders obliged and Naboth was convicted of treason, then stoned. Upon his death, his property reverted to the king, so in the end, Ahab got the vineyard he wanted.

At God’s command, the prophet Elijah then appeared before King Ahab and Jezebel, proclaiming that because of their actions, “This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood — yes, yours!” (1 Kings 21:17).

Elijah’s prophesy at the end of the narrative of Naboth’s vineyard comes true when Ahab dies in Samaria and his son, Ahaziah, dies within two years of ascending the throne. He is killed by Jehu, who emerges as another contender for the throne when the prophet Elisha declares him King. … According to 2 Kings 9:30-34, Jezebel and Jehu meet soon after the death of her son Ahaziah. When she learns of his demise, she puts on makeup, does her hair, and looks out a palace window only to see Jehu enter the city. She calls to him and he responds by asking her servants if they are on his side. “Who is on my side? Who?” he asks, “Thrown her down!” (2 Kings 9:32).

Jezebel’s eunuchs then betray her by throwing her out the window. She dies when she hits the street and is trampled by horses.”

Uh, it’s clear to me that God is serious about being the one and only object of our worship, reverence, and first obedience. Bad things happen when we put anyone or anything else on the “throne” of our lives! And no, God is NOT a narcissist; God is the Creator, Author of the Universe, Holy, Good, Righteous, Merciful, Powerful, Authority, Kind, Just, and Loving, all together and no aspect of His character ruling out the others.

You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds. The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.…Psalm 145:16-18

Righteous and Kind, Just and Merciful, Holy. Here are clear directives from the Bible on Who is to come first in our lives:

And he (Satan) led Him (Jesus) up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. “Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” Away from me, Satan!” Jesus declared. “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.'”

… Luke 4: 5-8, 10

“I am the LORD your God. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20: 3

“You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. Deuteronomy 6:13

–for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God—Exodus 34:14

“You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. “You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you,” Exodus 6: 13-14

Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtoreth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” 1 Samuel 7: 3

For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. Psalm 96: 4-5

“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. John 4: 23

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2: 9-11

Yes, I am to love my husband and respect him. Equally true, my husband is to love and respect me as his wife. Mutually we submit ourselves and our wills to God and what He wants for our marriage and family. That’s the way God intended marriage to reflect His unity, integrity and upright love that calls the beloved to purity and righteousness.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped… Philippians 2: 3-8

So Marabel, no; husbands should not seek to be revered and worshiped and served, but as Jesus showed us all to serve one another out of humility and giving love, and wives should do the same.

https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/all-women-bible/Jezebel-No-1

“No matter from what angle we approach the life of Jezebel she stands out as a beacon to both nations and individuals that the wages of sin is death. Further, from this great tragic figure of literature and of history we learn how important it is for the influence of a wife and mother to be on the side of all that is good and noble.”

If I truly love another person, I ought to be about encouraging and enabling the best, truest, noblest, most upright, God-honoring choices and attitudes in them. I go back to 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 to the definition of genuine love: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

So, Truly Total Woman, honor and worship God first, and your respect and love for you husband will fall into proper place. Total Husbands, same goes for you. Total Singles, same thing: call forth, encourage, support and enable the best and truest, most righteous and kind and good in others. That’s what we all should be about, regardless of relationship to each other.