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. 

Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors ….

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A “chance encounter” at the park…

I  felt so disappointed when I  was forced to go to work full-time and couldn’t continue helping with the Women’s Ministry at my church, something I’d done and  loved for over ten years at that church and ten years at a prior church. I felt like I’d lost a  limb, like a part of my self and heart had been cut out. Sincethen,though, in retrospect and for the past three years in ever-increasing reality, I see that ministry is everywhere a Christian is. Some of my past blog posts have been about God showing up, “connecting the dots”  to bring my life and someone else’s alongside each other for a few minutes, months,or years.

Changing direction one morning, walking downhill instead of uphill, I “coincidentally” met a woman, a pastor’s wife, that was truly a God encounter, and now we’ve been friends and helping with the church they’re planting for the past two years. “Coincidentally” the friend of mine who bought the king-size bed I needed to sell and advertised on Facebook put me in contact with people in the company she works for now, and  I’ve been  able to put stories from my friends in wonderful little devotional gift books. It brings me such joy to share their “God encounter” stories with thousands of people I’ll never meet, bringing them encouragement  that God will show up in their lives, too!

Recently I needed to grab a fast dinner down at a  mall and then run to Sears to look for a tool for my husband, all to “constructively kill time” while I waited to go back to a friend’s house to hear the youth choir she leads. As I turned down the arm of the mall to head for Sears, a young woman at a skin care kiosk called out to ask me if I’d try a sample. I stopped, we began chatting, and that began a half-hour conversation on Yeshua and why  yes, she could still be Jewish (she’s from Israel) and receive him as her Messiah.  I told her I’d bring her acopy of my book, but she was surprised the next day when I did. How will God use our meeting? I have no idea. That’s His business; mine was to stop in the mall and  share Christ’s love and Word. Yes, this is the second time I’ve shared with transplanted Israeli Jews at  kiosks in a mall!

The cashier at the grocery store, passers-by on the walking path, people in parking lots, homeless people in the park …. Truly, ministry is EVERYWHERE, and truly we’re called to be ambassadors for/disciples of Jesus whenever and wherever, however and with whomever the opportunity presents itself – or rather, wherever,whenever, however with whomever God’s Holy Spirit  opens a conversational doorway. Did the tragedy in my life that closed the Women’s Ministry door in my life close the door to my ministry? Not by a  long shot! Just  because you don’t  stand behind a pulpit (showing my age) or stand on the platform on Sunday morning, does that mean YOU aren’t called in ministry? NOT BY A LONG SHOT!  If you love  Jesus and call him your Savior and Lord, YOU ARE CALLED TO MINISTRY in sharing Christ’s  love, his tangtible  practical  help, his  encouragement, even his warning if need be, wherever, whenever, however, and with whomever God’s Spirit brings across your  path.

NO EXCUSES! You are able to tell anyone what Jesus means to you, what God’s done for you, and your testimony may be the open doorway or signpost to their own walk with the Lord Jesus.  Jesus COMMANDS us:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13: 34-35

All the Lord asks is that you show HIS love, however, wherever, whenever, with whomever you can, “And they’ll know we are Christian by our love!” More importantly, they’ll meet  Jesus through our love, through YOUR love demonstrated even the next time you step out your door and walk down the street! And you know what? You’ll  feel God’s affirmation OF and joy IN you when you do!

 
A ”… but…” to pray: Father God, I’ve  never seen myself as a preacher or a missionary, but that doesn’t matter in showing and sharing YOUR love, so give me  the courage and give me the strong nudge, Holy Spirit (because I can be nervous or just plain dense!) to step out in faith and ________________________________ knowing YOU will do andhave the power to do  whatever YOU want to do after I step  up to YOUR opening, in Jesus Name, amen. Holy Spirit, I’m listening ____________________________________________________________

 

Cover

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

Gethsemane again

This morning as I spread jelly on a bagel, I heard stinging words that were hurled at me over a piece of toast years ago. Rather than launch me into anger,  those words – thank you, Jesus –  brought me back to a truth I realized many years ago, though it isn’t written into the Gospels. I’m not even sure this truth hit me at Easter, but when it  hit me, I fell to the floor in worship.

Think, Christian, of your Redeemer and Savior King kneeling in the dirt beneath the olive trees that night. Think of the lies, challenges to his identity, insults and slurs hurled against him by the “religious” power structure – just listen, and remember:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.But  Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8: 3-11 NIV

The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ “And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away. Matthew 16: 1-4 NIV

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’?
“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19: 3-9

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him.25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
    under your feet.”’[e]

45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. Matthew 22: 15-46 NIV

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.  Luke 18: 31-34 NIV

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 2: 23-25 NIV

Scripture enough, truth enough to remind us that throughout his ministry, Jesus was continually challenged, “traps”laid out to trip him up by the “religious” leaders who saw him as a  threat to their power base. Baseless,  senseless, unreasonable, self-centered, irrational, and yes, flat-out evil. These are the very ones Jesus came to save, to spill his blood for and redeem IF ONLY they  would recognize their sins and need of his atoning Blood, IF ONLY they would turn in true repentance and reverence to him, turn in true gratitude at least, if not in awe and wonder at such selfless, sacrificial, dauntless, courageous, relentless, passionate  love. What, if not this kind of love, would cause the ONE who knew HE WAS THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB OF GOD to cry out FOR the people he would suffer and die for:

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23: 37-39 NIV

So what thought came to me about  the thoughts of Jesus as he knelt there in Gethsemane? HE SAW YOU! HE SAW ME! HE KNEW OUR LOVE, HEARD OUR PRAYERS, HEARD OUR SONGS OF THANKS AND PRAISE! That’s what helped Jesus stay  the course and walk through the insults, the agony, the weight of OUR sin falling on HIM: that  we would see the truth,  embrace it  with joy and run to HIS forgiving, gracrious, merciful, true love!

And what was his grief? THAT SO MANY  WOULD NEVER SEE, NEVER RECOGNIZE, NEVER KNOW, NEVER UNDERSTAND, NEVER COME TO HIS LOVE FOR THEM! Oh, I feel that  same anguish! 

That’s the sole,  singular reason I write this blog: to tesitfy to GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST JESUS in fervent hope that some  who don’t know HIM may read this, see and  hear Him, and come to HIS passionate love for them. And so that those of us, you who read this and know HIM, may be encouraged to run with the great GOOD NEWS THAT JESUS SAVES! Don’t hide your lamp under a  bushel! Don’t say someone else will do it! Don’t say it isn’t your  calling, because IT IS YOUR CALLING! However you are grace-gifted, it is your calling! MAKE  JESUS KNOWN! MAKE  HIS LOVE AND TRUTH FAMOUS! DON’T STOP TILL THE WHOLE WORLD HEARS – even your neighbor, even your brother-in-law, even your boss, even that person who hurls insults at you.

This is why about 25 of us ordinary  women gather every Monday morning to fervently sing and declare Scripture and passionately

pray for three hours for ALL THE WORLD TO KNOW THE AMAZING GRACE AND  SAVING  LOVE  OF GOD IN JESUS, OUR REDEEMER, SAVIOR, FRIEND, GOD AND KING!  Here’s  an ordinary  guy singing what we ordinary  girls  sing. Oh ordinary person, come to and lift up  your EXTRAORDINARY SAVIOR AND GOD!

Today, pray your own honest “…BUT GOD…” Lord, Jesus, Savior, I confess I’ve held back and not shared your love when I could, and I don’t know  why it scares me, unless I fear the rejection of people more than the approval of God. I’ve kept quiet, BUT NOW AS YOU HELP ME I WILL_______________________________________________________________, and Holy Spirit,  speak LOUD and CLEAR to me, in Jesus’ name, AMEN!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Bougainbiscus, Butterflies, Silly Songs and Jesus Loves Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Believer in what?” she replied.

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

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

And here’s what it says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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