Silly Me, Short Question, Strong Answer

 

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On  Monday’s  for two years, I’ve been blessed to be part of a group of people from about a dozen different  churches who meet (and have met for fourteen years) in a home for three hours to sing worship songs and speak scripture, as they sense inspiration to read it, as intercession for  the salvation – true reverent, thankful relationship with Jesus as Savior, Redeemer and Lord of their lives – of loved ones, friends, organizations, governments, nations, and even terrorists. These very ordinary people are amazing, and we feel God’s Presence every week,powerfully. I know His heart is to see the lost brought into God’s great love and forgiveness through Jesus, so  it’s not surprising, I guess, when we share God’s heart and love what He loves, that He shows up.

Some days we are mostly about intercession. some day’s it’s mostly worship, and some days, God’s Holy Spirit makes it  about us and the changes and  truths we need to embrace. These people  are transparent,  openly admitting where we blow it, and the bond we feel with each other, as well as with Jesus,  is amazing. Last  Monday the morning flowed into the word that God wants to do something new in each of us. Several shared about “God-incidences” in their lives, with one woman saying with a  laugh that she knew what  she said to another person HAD to be God speaking through  her, ”Because I’m not that smart!”

While we were in a time of  silence and listening, I “heard” a brief thought, prefaced by  the difficulty I had that morning of getting an earring through the shrinking hole in my left  earlobe, while thinking how ridiculous (even though widely accepted as common sense) it is to think  I/we make myself/ourselves more beautiful by poking holes in parts of our bodies and hanging  jewelry in or from them. Does that make me more  beautiful to God? If it doesn’t, what does our Heavenly (and relentlessly patient) Father think is true beauty? Hmmm…. this is offered as a “whadayathink.” I heard it for me and share it with you for your own reflection:

The most beautifying “thing” I can put on is
complete reliance on Jesus to be my acceptance before God–
yes, my covering, but not just my covering for sin,
He is my cleansing from sin.
Just As I Am in Him,
renewed into the creation God intended all along in me;
I am beautiful to God.
My face is washed clean from shame BY the  Father’s Love.
am delighted in; I am chosen.
HIS  beauty becomes the radiance in me,
a mirror polished to reflect Jesus,
like a still pool,  a cup holding Living Water reflecting ABBA’s Glory. 
Lord God, Father, help  me  remember and believe who You say I am to you and what  You see and You place within me, so I know my true identity and what truly matters, in Jesus’ name, amen!
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Riding Tandem: Training Wheels

“Gosh, I can hear the Bible as I’m riding,” I thought as I pushed a little faster than I wanted to and shot down the hill on two thin tires at 38 miles per hour, keenly aware there was nothing between my skin and the asphalt but a thin jersey and bike shorts. Others must surely have seen the same parallels riding on the back of a tandem road bike; now I entered their cadre, not entirely willingly. I ride with a man who loves cycling. Before I met him I enjoyed riding my bike to the grocery store and back, and noodling around the neighborhood on evening pleasure rides. He, however, is of the “conquer the hills, the faster, the better” squadron, and he knows I’ll love riding once I get more miles under me and build up my endurance. Humph.

I look at the hill he’d love to climb, at least an 8% grade all the 20-mile way to the top of the mountain, and I shudder. I never want to be THAT fit! When we ride independently, I usually “flake off” at the eight-mile mark, cut across a road lined seasonally with wildflowers and with a walking/biking path where I’ll generally find someone to stop, say hello to, and pray with. The surprise of a perfect stranger offering to pray for them delights me. I am God’s carrier pigeon on two wheels, bringing a word of His love to someone in their day, and I have fun being part of the “air drops” He allows me to make.

I remember riding on the handlebars or on the back book rack od my brother’s bike. That was fun, and I didn’t have to do any of the work

But when I’m on the back of the tandem …. new rules apply.

  • Where he’s going, I have to go. (And last week wearing his jersey and staring at his dorsal side, I wryly thought of how Peter must have felt when Jesus told him, “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18 and Amen!)
  • I can’t see or control where we are going.
  • As far as he goes, I have to go. (And I thought of the woman in the cycling club who replied to her husband’s comment that she wasn’t giving him enough on the back of the bike, “If I give it all to you know, you aren’t getting any of it when we get home!”)
  • I have to match his pedaling speed because I’m “clipped in.” (Because against my protests, he did put clip pedals on and even bought me cycling shoes to lock into the clips so I can “give it more power” and use my hamstrings too. My hamstrings were quite happy letting my quads do the work, thank you very much, quit when they got tired, and I liked being able to freely leap off my bike if I started to fall.)
  • Which brings me to this point: if he falls, I fall.
  • When he stops, I stop. (Generally gratefully. At intersections I counterbalance his foot on the ground.)
  • I’m dependent upon his judgment and character.

These may sound like negatives, and in some ways they are, but I choose to rename them “sobering realities.” He has a few “sobering realities” to face as well:

  • He has to put his muscle to the pedals, but if I so choose, I can pretty much rest in his strength when I’m tired.
  • I can take my hands off the handlebars and sit upright because he’s steering.
  • I can communicate my needs/limitations, and he will out of consideration choose an easier or shorter route. (or face my stiff neck, sore wrists and sat-out seat)
  • When my energy is used up, it’s up to him to get us home.
  • If I shift my weight, he has to compensate to keep us upright. (Whew, I have to learn to reach for my water bottle without leaning to either side)
  • He is responsible for my safety.

I have heard the test of a relationship is if you can ride a tandem without killing each other. The rule is: what happens on the bike, stays on the bike. But every time I click my feet into those pedals, the word “captivity” springs to mind: the state or period of being held, imprisoned, enslaved, or confined. BUT that is one perspective, half of the truth. The other truth is that riding on the tandem makes a way for me to be with my friend and do what i couldn’t do, without great exertion, on my own.

I also know this is true about lasting relationship: “Perfect romantic love never does last, of course. Under the best conditions, it evolves into something more realistic and lasting, where two imperfect people discover one another’s virtues and faults, grow to appreciate the goodness in each other but also to accept the disappointments.” I have to add, though I’d rather not, learn to accept challenges to grow, stretch, get stronger.

As I crank my heart out grinding up the second or third of the of the “only one more hill” hills, I sometimes ruefully sing the old song to myself:

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Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do.
I’m half-crazy all for the love of you.
It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage.
But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.

The tandem truth is that, in sending Jesus, God made a way for us to receive what we can’t do out of our own strength or “righteousness”: ride with him, depending on his strength, endurance, blood, love.

A rabbi’s disciples always walked in the dust of their teacher, following in his footsteps wherever he lead them. Jesus’ disciples did the same, and if I want to be His disciple today, I’m going to have to put in some miles. I can’t keep up with him our my own limited resources and “goodness,” but i can clip into the pedals behind him and ride where he’s going.The disciples were on two feet; I’m on two feet with you, Jesus, and sometimes literally on two wheels in the company of some of your competitive “conquer the mountain, harder, faster, longer, first” children who don’t know you yet, but need to. All I want to conquer is the enemy of my soul, not the pavement! Stop and smell the Texas sage, people! There are lonely folks to be prayed for out there…. but they ride on.  Sigh.

Okay. Once a week, at least, I saddle up as sidekick. Hop on the back of the bike and lock in with Jesus, who genuinely is crazy about you and me,  as you read these verses. Ask the Holy Spirit if and how they might apply to your life today:

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, Hebrews 10:23-24 NIV

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1: 4-8 NIV

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Psalm 31:3

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. John 12:26

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,

and he will make your paths straight.[Proverbs 3:5-6a]

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

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. Do 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. Philippians 2:1-4

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

Oh, God, that’s what you want for me, isn’t it? Rats! I’d much rather noodle around the neighborhood and never get serious about going somewhere with the faith and gifts and strengths you’ve given to, and invested in, me. I’d rather quit when I feel tired, hop off when I want, go where I want at the speed I want and not be obligated to anyone for how long it takes me to get nowhere in particular. But I have a sneaking suspicion – and last week at a conference I heard a “name of God” for the first time: “Jehovah Sneaky” – that you want me to do something with the talents and desires and gifts you put in me, you want me to follow the road you planned for me, to go as far as You want to go, willingly stop when you stop, and trust your love for me whether I can see where we’re going or not. I recall speaking on this subject ten years ago, but then I hadn’t been required to walk down a road I never wanted to travel, for longer than I wanted to be in battle and in limbo. Now I’ve had to live it, and it hasn’t been rainbows, bunnies and flowers. It’s been hard, uphill, in the dark, in the rain, against the wind, and a challenge to keep my heart free from bitterness, anger, pulling away from you and fear every turn of the wheel.

God, you told me two things over two years ago: “You’re worth fighting for” and “You are my chosen child. Don’t be afraid of what man tries to do to you.” You didn’t tell me where we were going, how long the road would be, or how steep the climb. I suspect my fear and inability to hang on made this trip take longer and be harder than it needed to be. Did I switch places and try to be the one in front? Did I let go of “manna” you gave me because I was grieving too hard? Well, I know you forgive me and your mercy is new every morning. I want to take the back seat now and let you pull me up the hill, pump hard when I can’t, stop when i/we need to, and yes, I desperately need to trust your character to take responsibility for my safety.

A “…BUT…” to pray: God, I know you want my life to count and have meaning. I do, too, but honestly, “clipping in” with you makes me feel _____________________________________________________. I know you understand, because you know I’m human, and not seeing where we’re going , I feel ____________________________________________. But I know you love me and your plans for me are for good, not for evil, so as I ride with you, Jesus, I’ll give my best to _______________________________________________________________________________________ and I’m leaning on you, holding on to your character and love, and asking you to ______________________________________________________________________________________. When I start to lean, slip, get tired or want to quit and go home, please _______________________________________________________________. Thank you that you “know my frame” and you love me even in my weakness, as well as in my strength. I need your renewing strength to _______________________________________________________________________________. Thank you that you wont quit on me! In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Enlarge My Territory

Funny how God invades my quiet times and turns my thoughts upside down and inside out! I’d love it if I had some sweet sunny rainbow and bunnies post today, but I cannot turn my face away from this child! I cannot hide, deny, or run from the heart of my Jesus and his call on my life and yours. We are not our own; we were bought with a price. We are HIS, and HE needs us to grow up now.

Yesterday I saw horrendous photos of children – and I mean toddlers – being shot in the head by terrorists, children’s bodies lying in rows as hooded men stood over them. This morning I’m reading Psalm 143 and reciting the verses I have memorized, “Save me from my enemies, for I hide myself in you….” And I stop short. This morning this prayer isn’t about me, isn’t meant to be just about the adversary I face in my own life; this morning the Holy Spirit is enlarging both my heart and my prayers.

And haven’t I encouraged other people to do this very thing? On the World Day of Prayer in 2007 I gave a message entitled, “I Need a Bigger Pot” at another church, encouraging the folks assembled to “un-bonsai” their prayer life by taking prayer out of the “my world, my needs” pot, letting their roots and branches grow to un-stunt the growth in the oaks of righteousness they were called to be.

In a split second (God moves at the speed of understanding, which is sometimes faster than the speed of light) I thought of the Prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 and the impact Dr. Bruce Wilkinsons’ book by the same title had on me personally and millions of others back in 2000 when it hit and flew out of bookstores.

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez,[a] saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (NIV)

The subtitle of that book was “Breaking Free to the Blessed Life.” Oh, my righteous Father, do I think the line about enlarging my territory means give me more goodness in my life? Give me influence over more people, in more places, and raise me up to greater accolades and affirmation? Do I realize that 262 of your children desperately NEED to BREAK FREE of their ungodly, unholy captors? Did my heart break yesterday for them? Better question: did I enlarge the territory of my heart? Did my heart-rent prayers GO UP FOR THEM? DID I LET YOU, JESUS, ENLARGE MY HEART AND THE BREADTH AND REACH AND POTENTIAL OF MY PRAYERS?

Read it again, Rose, with God’s eyes, with Jesus’ heart, with the Holy Spirit’s call to you to get down on the floor and pray Psalm 143 FOR your brothers and sisters in more than harm’s way. Lift them to the Father. Defend them with the Blood of Jesus. Call for some Angles to listen up to Psalm 103:20 “Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word” and give them some Word to take!

Read it again or for the first time, couple it with your desire for God to “enlarge your territory,” and extend your heart and your passionate prayers for the Persecuted Church, to dying innocent children, to mother and fathers watching their flesh and blood shot and beheaded. DOES THAT ENLARGE YOUR TERRITORY? How does that impact your prayer, “Oh, that you would bless me.. .and keep me from harm”?

How can I pray that for myself without praying it for that toddler who had six rifles aimed at her precious little head? Can you hear the words of Jesus today in a new way, in a larger territory? What do you hear in his words?

 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:35-4 (NIV)

What do you hear Paul speaking to you? “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 (NIV) Is there something, someone you could pick up and carry in your prayers today?

“And God granted his request.” If God sent a yes to Jabez, won’t he send a yes to your passionate prayer? Don’t you think he’s waiting for you to ask him to move in a way that will show the world his majesty, his holiness, his love, his righteousness, his power? Don’t you think THEY are waiting for prayers from their brothers and sisters to join with their own and set captives free?

I’d love for this post to reach maybe a million people today, so passionate is my cry to see God move to end this horrendous, treacherous abomination by HIS POWER in HIS WAY for HIS GLORY. Maybe only one person will read this. Maybe only one more person will pray. If that person is you, and if you have no idea how to begin, here are Psalm 143 and 144. Put their “names” into this word, launch it, and believe with me that

 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11New International Version (NIV)

A “… BUT…” to pray today: LORD, your children all over the world are in peril, literally for their lives, BUT YOU O GOD promise to hear me when I pray, and I ask you to enlarge my territory, so I pray for them:

A psalm of David.

Lord, hear my prayer,

listen to my cry for mercy;

in your faithfulness and righteousness

come to my relief.

Do not bring your servant into judgment,

for no one living is righteous before you.

The enemy pursues me,

he crushes me to the ground;

he makes me dwell in the darkness

like those long dead.

8 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.

Psalm 143

 

Praise be to the Lord my Rock,

who trains my hands for war,

my fingers for battle.

He is my loving God and my fortress,

my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield, in whom I take refuge,

who subdues peoples[a] under me.

Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,

mere mortals that you think of them?

They are like a breath;

their days are like a fleeting shadow.

Part your heavens, Lord, and come down;

touch the mountains, so that they smoke.

Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy;

shoot your arrows and rout them.

Reach down your hand from on high;

deliver me and rescue me

from the mighty waters,

from the hands of foreigners

whose mouths are full of lies,

whose right hands are deceitful.

I will sing a new song to you, my God;

on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,

10 to the One who gives victory to kings,

who delivers his servant David.

From the deadly sword

11 deliver me;

rescue me from the hands of foreigners

whose mouths are full of lies,

whose right hands are deceitful.

12 Then our sons in their youth

will be like well-nurtured plants,

and our daughters will be like pillars

carved to adorn a palace.

13 Our barns will be filled

with every kind of provision.

Our sheep will increase by thousands,

by tens of thousands in our fields;

14  our oxen will draw heavy loads.[b]

There will be no breaching of walls,

no going into captivity,

no cry of distress in our streets.

15 Blessed is the people of whom this is true;

blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.

Psalm 144

Amen and victorious Amen, all for YOUR GLORY JESUS! Horror