Stones of Remembrance: I Will Testify To Love

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”… Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day….On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea[b] when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” Joshua 4: 1-7, 9, 19-24 NIV

That’s what this blog is: stones of remembrance I place here to testify to God’s goodness in my life. So today I HAVE TO add this stone to the stack here  that  I truly pray is an altar to the faithfulness of God. About three weeks ago I “accidentally” ended up in a coffee shop about twenty minutes  before my son got there to met me  for breakfast. His friends had suggested the spot, so I drove  downtown on a very low-cloud-covered unusual day for metro Phoenix, guided by my Google maps to take a route I wouldn’thave  chosen,and the first event happened going north on the 101 (instead of west on the  202 as I would have done) : a heart-shaped  hole in the clouds ahead of me. Seriously,  a heart-shaped hole that morphed into an even more  heart-shaped  hole as I watched it above the freeway. Law-abiding driver  that I am, I didn’t grab my phone to take a picture of it to show you here. Yes, God Almighty was speaking love to me!

I got to share HIS love as I waited for Emily,  the barista, to pour my green iced tea, inspired by the Apple photo on the TV on the wall of Hong Kong harbor to ask her,   “Would you like to hear about a miracle that happened  there?” as I pointed to the skyscrapers on the TV. No one else was there, so I had time to share the miracle birth of  my granddaughter and the miracle of me being able to FIND my family when I had  no way to contact them, a miracle God set up nine years earlier (thank you again, Julia, and your mother, too).

Emily knew it was no accident that I was there; I knew it, too,  and that became more apparent over the course of the hour or so we were there. “Coincidentally,” I “happened” to have a photo book of my granddaughter’s first weeks, in the bag of Valentine goodies I had  for my younger son. The book had been my late mother’s copy, and I’ve had it for eight years. Why did I  only think to give it to Ethan that morning? All I can think is that THAT was God’s timing and intention to speak HIS incredible love to Emily (and to me in the process).

Fast forward three weeks. A new song copied on my voice memos on my phone that morning,  I’m at a Mental Health and the Gospel conference in Tempe. Wow! Sunday morning  services should be this transparent, honest, open, shame-free and  healing! YES, every one of us is born a sinner,and YES, JESUS’ sacrifice on the cross is MORE than enough to atone for it all when we run to embrace His  lavish, implausible, incomprehensible, relentless  love and mercy, so we can be FREE to be REAL with each other and find healing. I got a nudge to eat my box lunch in  my car and then head to another East-Valley church, where I knew there was a prayer room. I thought I knew why I was going: to play and sing and fling that song as a worship “rock” in my “sling,”  BUT GOD…… had another purpose.

I’d noticed a young woman come into the sanctuary earlier. Okay, she was there to pray, too;  that was obvious by the  spot where she knelt. I  did my thing, turned to leave,and got another nudge to go over to her and gently share that I wanted to stand with her in agreement for her prayers. I walked over, briefly said I wanted to add my prayers to hers, and she smiled, so I put my hand on her arm and prayed for her, including for the healing I assumed she needed, given the walker parked beside her.  Her eyes widened, and  she asked, “How did you do that? I felt the Holy Spirit!” I quickly assured her that I hadn’t done a THING; who she felt was THE HOLY SPIRIT  just pouring out of one very empty bucket.

Note: she wasn’t a member of that church. Ursula had come to attend a group, but the meeting she was looking for wasn’t happening that day! So…. we both “happened” to be in the same place at the same time…. Oh the depth of the wonder of the glorious mercies of God! We knelt together, shared honestly and  transparently for probably twenty minutes, and LOVE met us there! I practically needed her walker to rise and walk, trembling,  across the sanctuary to go to my car. THIS LOVE! THIS LIVING LOVE! THIS HOLY FIRE OF BURNING DESIRE FOR EVERY ONE OF US TO KNOW HIM!

What does this mean for you? Do you have any idea how very, very, very much God wants to lavish HIS FATHER LOVE on you and in you – just as you are right now, humanity and scars and weaknesses and  mess-ups and all  – because HE IS LOVE?!!! I need to remember this as much as every one of you reading this does: I AM CHERISHED BY ALMIGHTY GOD –  so as I put yet another  stone upon this altar to God’s amazing faithfulness in my life, will you kneel with me, search your heart for a stone you can add, or ask for one to be able to place on your own pile, and worship a FATHOMLESS LOVE who has a name – JESUS – with me?

I may feel unloved, useless, worthless and invalidated when people reject me, BUT GOD SAYS I AM DEEPLY LOVED, and that’s YOUR “…but…” to pray today!






Strike the Rock

Perseverance. No visible results. Twenty-five years. How long could you endure? When would frustration overtake your faith? And was this a word God intended for me?

Recently I visited the area headquarters for an missions organization sending humanitarian workers to indigenous people in Mexico. Paper banners hung along the walls of a large multi-purpose room. One color indicated New Testament translations completed, one color indicated translations underway, and just a few of a third color targeted languages remaining to have Bible translation underway. Those weren’t just banners; those were life stories, joys, tears, sacrifice, illnesses overcome, dangers faced, loneliness for families far away, children growing up isolated from their home culture and friends and extended families, miracles, healings, minds given the gift of literacy, the good news of Jesus planted in hearts and lives, a chronicle of lives invested over decades to bring hope, vision, humanitarian aid, and God’s word in their own heart language to how many hundreds of thousands of people.

If we were there, doing their work, pushing through, going without, threatened by local shamans and witch doctors, how long would we persevere before we saw “results”? One man asked that after 25 years of his and his wife’s befriending, helping, giving into lives in the village, learning the language and writing book after book of the Bible to give the villagers the hope of Jesus. Though they’d made friends in the village and the people truly appreciated all they had sacrificed and given, twenty-five years passed and not a single person accepted Jesus as Lord. The local witch doctor had over the years threatened the villagers that, if anyone embraced Jesus, he would put a spell of death upon them.

Had all their work been for nothing? I know I’d be asking that question, ready to pack up my family and belongings and head home deep in doubt that God had actually called me to that work. Deep in confusion and nearing despair, one day the man experienced a vivid dream. He was standing in front of a large boulder, and a hammer lay on the ground. An angel walked up to the man and told him, “God wants you to strike the rock.” Obediently the man began hammering away at the hard rock. he hammered, and hammered, and hammered, and hammered. Not a single chip flaked off the rock, not a single crack appeared in the hard, resistant surface. Tired and confused, the man put the hammer down.

Up walked the angel again, this time with a question. “What are you doing?”

The man poured out his exhausted frustration, saying “The rock won’t break!”

Then the angel kindly asked him a pointed question: “What did God tell you to do?”

“Strike the rock,” the man replied.

“God didn’t tell you to break the rock,” the angel explained simply. “He just asked you to strike it.”

Revelation and validation flashed into the weary man’s mind and spirit. He and his wife had done exactly what they were sent to do, regardless of the results they did or didn’t see!

They moved on to a neighboring village, and almost immediately, people began accepting Jesus as their Lord. What in the world was the difference, the couple wondered?  Villagers explained matter-of-factly, “We aren’t under the power of their witch doctor. He can’t put a curse on us!” So many came to Christ that a church was planted in the second village. Not long after, the witch doctor in the neighboring village died, and Christians from the second village came to the of the first and led them to faith in Jesus, planting a church there as well. What truly did all their years of love and labor invested in that first village do? Make the rock ready to crumble at just the right time!

How many of my prayers seem to have gone unheard and unanswered? Is it possible that God has asked me simply to “Strike the rock”?  Are my fervent prayers truly more effective than I know, than I see now?

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:1-8 NIV

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

I’ve thrown my hammer down in exhaustion and frustration more than once, and I know I’ve lost some blessings out of sheer sorrow in not seeing results. What blessing did I miss? What did I give up? How about you? What good are you weary of doing? Um, okay … has anyone seen my hammer?

Rose into cave at Mooney 96

A  “… BUT … “to move: God. I’ve prayed and prayed repeatedly for _______________________________________ and it looks like nothing at al lhas happened, no answer is coming. Show me if I need to simply persevere in “striking the rock” or if it is time to move on, trusting that you will __________________________________ when I keep on doing good in ______________________________. I will let you be God and Lord of the results!