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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Empty Bucket, Clueless, and Standing on Tip-toe

http://www.thecourage.com/video/college-a-cappella-groups-incredible-rendition-of-popular-worship-song/

Just when I think I might have a clue what God’s plans are for me, I realize that, yep, I’m pretty much clueless. The last eight years of my life have not at all been what I expected, naive growing-up-in-a-God-honoring-family-and-thinking-the-rest-of-the-world-lived-the-same-way girl that I was. I now know that most of the world does NOT know Jesus as God’s Son, God’s sacrificial Lamb, the Messiah, the King, the Savior, the One Way, Truth and Life, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, and because they don’t, they live their lives under their own power and desires and selected influences and moral code, which often differ vastly from God Almighty’s. This is not me pronouncing judgement, but a recognition of fact. How can they know…

For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. Romans 10:13-17 NLT

This is where the empty bucket comes into play in my life: I am realizing that the most valuable thing I can do is empty myself of myself, get over myself, and let Jesus pour into and out of me.  That shoud be my primary “job description.” Just this morning, after I listened to the beautiful song above, the link texted to me by a friend, I got a phone call asking me to come to a MADD meeting. My first reaction internally was, “Oh, no, I don’t want to dig up this pain and grief again,” but as I spoke with the caller, a tenuous certainty (I know that sounds illogical, because something is either certain or it’s not, but maybe some of you “get” this oxymoron) began growing in me that God has a purpose for me attending, a purpose beyond ME, beyond what I might personally get OUT of it, perhaps a purpose about what GOD would give and pour INTO others through it.

Sigh, my humanity would prefer to go the route of “What’s in it for ME?” and I’m making an educated guess that many of you struggle with the same pull of self-protection and self-gratification. I fully acknowledge that I, along  with millions of others, would like to have an easy, pleasant, comfortable,  well-provided for, problem-free life. Now, however,  I realize that’s mostly fiction. We are all born onto a battlefield between good and evil, and at some point we must choose which side we’re on. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is NO “middle, neutral ground.”  If you choose the side of good, be assured that evil will find you and try to render you ineffective for good. BUT the good news is that God will work even harder IN you, FOR you, FOR victories and powerful purposes.

I was reading the book “Everybody Wants To Win, But Nobody Wants To Wait” by Marcus Gill – until someone lifted it out of my purse at the grocery store two days ago, see, evil is not taking a nap –  and in the second chapter, he writes the truth that if you are or will be effective for and powerfully used by God, you can expect Satan will try to take you out or render you ineffective. His strategy is lies, external influences to tell you you’re not good enough for God to love you or internal voices whispering how badly you’ve blown it (even if you haven’t). And yes, he is MEAN and SNEAKY and HE DOESN’T GO AWAY QUIETLY! So……

I have to constantly fight back by reminding myself of the good words God has spoken into me  through the Bible and through other people at some critical times:

“You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow, you will be a crown of  splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate, but you will be called Hephzibah (my delight is in her) and your land Beulah (chosen, married),  for theLORD will take delight in you and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your build marry you, as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will you God rejoice over you.”  Isaiah 62:2-5 NIV

And God’s words to me in my spirit seven years ago at 5:30 a.m.: “You’re worth fighting for.”

And words from a total stranger four years ago: “You are my chosen child. Do not fear what man tries to do to you.”

Words on license plates, chrome words on a car, words in my dreams.  Yes, they strengthen me, and I fight the lies with them, but for what purpose? Just so I feel good about myself? I think it’s more than that. And whatever is going on in your life, I think there is a greater  purpose for YOU, if you belong to God through Jesus, that you can’t yet see, not even when you, like me, try to spiritually “stand on tip-toe” to get a look at God’s plan from His vantage point. I DO fully endorse confidently asking God to show you His purposes. I’ve done that before, and He has almost instantly. I’ve also done that and not seen an immediate answer. I have to believe, though, that God doesn’t change, nor does His love for me,  just because my earthly circumstances  and the nastiness of what Satan throws at me do.

“The Immutability of God is an attribute where “God is unchanging in his character, will, and covenant promises.”. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, ’God is a spirit, whose being, wisdom power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.” Those things do not change.”

“For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. Malachi 3:6

“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19

The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation. Psalm 33:11

The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.  Psalm 138: 8

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. james 1:17

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

Therefore, I believe God has a redeeming plan and purpose for all the garbage I’ve gone through and am still going through, BUt I believe I can choose to be part of that plan and purpose, or choose to follow my own desires, inclinations, plans and hopes and tell God to take a hike because I don’t want the enemy flak that will come when I open my mouth to tell someone Jesus loves them. Christianity is not “religion” and it’s not a “bench warmer”faith; it’s a vital, living relationship with the Author of the Universe and the Lover of your soul who created you for relationship AND for purpose. Your life matters!

Does that make it worth the discomfort, the rejection, the abuse you may receive because you stand for Christ? I have to look at the Disciples, every one but John dying a brutal death at the hands of those who wanted to silence the liberating, validating, stauts-quo–threatening Truth of Jesus. Ultimately it does! So I think, pain and grief relived or not, I will go to that meeting to see what God wants to and WILL do, promised, through empty me. It’s HIS story, HIS victory, HIS purposes, His glory, and He WILL “have my back”!

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

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. isaiah 41: 10 NIV

You [O God] are resplendent with light… You alone are to be feared. Psalm 76: 4, 7 NIV

The weapons we use in our fight… have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5

“For we do not proclaim 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 the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Now we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us.…” 2 Corinthians  4: 5-7

I remember Beth Moore’s words in one of her studies: God is who He says He is, he can do what He says He can do, I am (you are) who God says I am (you are), I (you)can do what God says I (you) can do, God’s Word is alive and active in me (you) – I’m believing God!

As Patsy Claremont states in the title of her book, “God uses cracked pots!” I admittedly am one, broken not by my own choice but by the cosmic battle we’re all part of, like it or not, and my fervent hope and prayer is that the light of God’s love and glory WILL shine out of all the broken places in me/you to guide others to the incomparable depth of the riches possible from knowing Jesus as my/their/your Savior, Lord, Shepherd, Friend, and King! I pray for you, too, as I ask God for myself, that you and I will “ Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He willnot leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[a] knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”[b Isaiah 40:13]
35 “Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”[c Job 41:11]
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11: 33-36 NIV

On Monday mornings for three hours I’m part of a group of passionately loving people who pray and intercede for the unsaved and sick in worship. It’s the most powerful experience I’ve ever been part of,  so here is A “…BUT…” to pray in song:

 

 

Ginny’s Balloon

In my email this morning was a notification I’ve never received before: an orange balloon with the message “April 16th is Ginny M______’s 58th birthday.” A wave of shock and sorrow crashed over me, with wondering like seaweed wrapping around my mind. I never even knew the date of Ginny’s birthday! Who sent this? How and why did this reminder come to me?

The last time I spoke with Ginny was in November, 1996, when, moved by a nudge inside me from God’s Spirit, I told the prayer team at our women’s retreat that I didn’t think I could lead the team the following year. Ginny stepped up and said, “I know God has been calling me to do something, but I didn’t know what. Sure, I’ll take over!” Sure enough, my husband took a new job and moved us across the country in September of 1997. For several years after that Ginny led the prayer team, a group of amazing, fun, passionately praying, ordinary, extraordinarily loving women

But why did I get this “Birthday Alarm” email? I don’t even know about a website called Birthday Alarm!

These questions swirled as, oh, God, I broke down in tears for Ginny, remembering the sweet spirit she showed, her compassionate heart, the prayer warrior she was, her struggle to understand and to survive on a small income from a non-profit job after her husband’s betrayal and their divorce. I prayed for Ginny’s family for comfort today and on her birthday, because Ginny took her life over ten years ago.

She never saw the baby her daughter was carrying at the time when Ginny’s pain and grief outweighed her hope. Why, then, this strange email – a shocking reminder of her grief and yet a memory of her warmth and love?

In the middle of my tears, doubled over on the floor in grief, I asked, “This is from you. It must be something deeper than Ginny, isn’t it, Jesus?”  Immediately I “saw” other women on their own floor in tears, and I began praying for others who may today be on the brink of suicide as Ginny was, needing a real hand of love and hope outstretched to them, someone somehow breaking into their life with real, tangible hope, a message of love from someone that can keep them going one more day and believing that God has good ahead for their lives. In all honesty, I know what Ginny felt, because deep love loves deeply forever, grief and despair overwhelmed me two summers ago and I almost went the way Ginny chose to end the pain of her loss. Sweet friend Ginny, I know what you felt, because you and I love with the heart we asked Jesus to give us.

“This is something deeper than Ginny, isn’t it, Jesus?”

It’s a call to all of us to do two things: first, to let the incredible love and compassion of God push out the walls of our hearts, open and expand our prayers beyond our own immediate concerns, beyond our own families and jobs and wants, to make our hearts big enough to contain the cares and hopes and sorrows and desires and urgencies of our Father’s heart. Secondly, it’s the call to listen and act on prompts God gives us to pray for others, not to shrug them off as our own ideas, but take them as a call to come alongside Jesus as “priests” beside him as he prays for those unknown to us but intimately loved and known by him.

Thirty years ago I felt a nudge to make an appointment with my hairdresser David to get a haircut. He was going through a divorce at the time, but we had never talked about how it was impacting him. I had errands to run that day, so I pushed aside the thought and didn’t come back to it for two weeks. I called the salon at last and asked it I could make an appointment with David. “Oh …. ,” the receptionist paused, “haven’t you heard? David drove his car off the road in North Mountain Park last week. David is dead.”

Could a conversation with him, a prayer with David have given him hope enough to hang on? I’ll never know.

But I know I will never again ignore a nudge to call, to stop and speak to someone, to pray.

A friend asked me to speak at her church’s World Day of Prayer service in 2007. I wondered what message God wanted me to bring to them and waited for inspiration. A few days later I was looking in the bathroom mirror, concerned for all the wrinkles starting to show on my face, and  I began praying, ”Oh God, please increase the collagen production in my skin …” when God interrupted me with the memory of a local police officer who’d been burned over much of his body when his police car crashed into a vehicle he was chasing. His car was engulfed in flames. I’d seen a story about him on television, how he was still trying to be a positive husband and father to his family, even though he had no nose and no ears and his face was horribly disfigured. My words changed in mid-stream, and I prayed instead, “God, please restore healthy skin to Jason’s face and body. Bring him a miracle of new skin. And Jesus, others are struggling with burns and scars …. Jesus, heal THEIR skin!”

I glanced at the small artificial “bonsai” tree sitting on the bathroom counter, and the Spirit gave me the message he wanted to deliver: “I need a bigger pot.” I need, we all need, to stop living in tiny containers, pruning our “roots” and stunting the growth of our prayers to only reach as high as our own immediate concerns. God calls us to let him grow our “roots” to take in the needs and concerns and urgencies of people all over our world. We’re meant to be 50-foot tall Oaks of  Righteousness, not dwarfed bonsai imitations, whose roots reach out to others near and far.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV

Oh, sweet prayer warrior Ginny, you did it. Your memory moved me beyond my own sense of loss to take in the loss someone else is feeling out there today, to pray and, I truly believe, to activate God’s plan to send angels or his people – maybe YOU, my reader friend – with hearts full of love, encouragement, hope, and real physical help where that’s the pressing, vital need today for some hurting, grieving, barely hoping heart.

We need pure hearts, big hearts, hearts refined by the relentless love and compassion of God. Someone, somewhere, needs your prayers today! Needs your phone call today! Needs your text message or email, but most of all, your physical presence beside them today! I wept on the floor and sang this song as a cry to God to enlarge my heart again:

Purify my heart, let me be as gold, and precious silver. Refiner’s Fire ….

I was almost in Ginny’s spot not so very long ago, and miraculously, Praise God, I’m still here. Thank God if you don’t know the bitter heartbreak of betrayal, but Jesus does, and I think He sent me this reminder today to flatten me on the floor in awareness to pray for women I’ll never meet, men I’ll never know, but who need Jesus’ power and presence released in their lives in tangible, mighty, loving, powerful ways today.

I’d love to send up a thousand prayer balloons for Ginny!

Can I ask you to join me, to ask God who in the world needs your prayers, and to pray today to honor our Father’s precious daughter Ginny?

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