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Monday, September 29, 2014

The Gathering

This summer our church started a once a month fellowship. We call it “The Gathering”. It’s been quite the success. The Gathering consists of good food, (always a must!), laughter, and sweet fellowship. We meet at each other houses. 

I have throughly enjoyed these get togethers, as it gives me a rare opportunity to be with my church family other than Sunday mornings. I say rare, because Sunday mornings it’s usually a quick Hello, perhaps a hug and “have a good week” on our way to our cars afterword. 

Lets face it, other than the occasional dinner after church, Sunday mornings aren’t a great time to immerse in deep conservation with each other. When I was the Women’s leader, I always tried to plan times away from church with the girls. Whether in a group or just a couple of us. It really bonded us together. 

I’m convinced that these times of fellowship is so vital to my connection with my Church family. Church is much more than a social club, an obligation or duty. I need these people and so do you. 

I’ve heard the arguments against Church. “You don’t have to go to a Church to be a Christian.” “Those people are hypocrites.” “I’ve been hurt by so called Christians and won’t be again.” etc...

I would answer, that yes, going to a Church building doesn’t make you a Christian. Every Church is full of human beings, so yes I suppose there will be those who fail. And yes, I’ve been hurt by people in my Church. I know there are “bad” Churches out there. 

I’ve gone to my church since the day I was born. Now I am aware that’s probably a rarity. It’s just the way it’s worked out. I’ve attended through leadership failures, church splits, drama and some downright ugliness. 

I haven’t always had such wonderful positive feelings. I left for two years to attend another church, but came back. I’ve pondered about leaving for good a few times. 

As I become more involved in being a leader, The Lord gave me a love and a new perspective for the Body. It became more about serving and less about what I can get from the Body. It’s helped me to keep my focus where it needs to be, i.e., off me and and on Jesus and His body. 

It’s sustained me through the rough times in church.

Maybe we ought to go with a new perspective; to serve one another and go after God with a passionate heart, rather than to be a spectator in the pews. Maybe we should pray for each other, look each other in the eyes and share our hurts, rather than wag our tongues and point our fingers. Perhaps we should share a table, a meal. 

That’s too messy, I hear you say. Yea, it can get messy. But you desperately need it. I need it. It’s far too easy to stay closed up in our houses and lives. It’s also a miserable and lonely place to be. We need each other. I need your prayers, your laughter, your gifts and your hugs. I need to be known. You do too. 

I want to encourage you to find a church family. Or get to know the one you’re in. Don’t alienate yourself. 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Teacher

I have a new heroine. She is a woman who lived in darkness. Blindness and deafness imprisoned her in a world of no communication. A sickness at the age of 2 led to Helen Keller’s disability and set her adrift with a meaningless future. 

In her book, she shares, “I was without compass or sounding-line, and had no way of knowing how near the harbor was. “Light! Give me light! was the wordless cry of my soul, and light of love shone on me in that very hour.” 

That very hour she speaks of is when Anne Sullivan came to her house. Her beloved teacher who brought her into the light, who showed her the blessing of communication. 

Anne Sullivan took her under her wing and patiently began to teach her. It was a struggle at times. In fact Anne calls her a savage because Helen quite honestly was pampered by her family and allowed to do whatever she wanted. So they butted heads many times. 

Anne would not give up and kept teaching her words,  but Helen didn’t understand the meaning of what the “words” meant until one blessed day when Anne took her to the water pump, pulled her hands under the flowing water and spelled w-a-t-e-r. 

Helen shares, “Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten-a thrill of returning thought and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!”

Helen Keller quickly learned how to communicate, how to read and even to write. She went to school and college. 

She was known to recognize people by touching their hands. She could sense fear, joy, anxiety, and sadness simply by “feeling” another person. 

She traveled the world, met well known people, even presidents. She didn’t allow her disability to stop her in any way. It humbled me as I read her story. I have all my facilities  and yet I allow my hang ups sometimes to keep me from being all I could be. 

Helen Keller’s remarkable life would not have been possible if not for Anne Sullivan, her beloved teacher. Her teacher led her out of darkness into life.

I couldn’t help but think of the precious Holy Spirt. The Spirit of Truth, the Revelator, and our Teacher. 

Where would we be without our Teacher, the Holy Spirit? We were walking in darkness, without understanding. But the Spirit brought us into God’s wonderful light! He opens our eyes to glorious truths in the Word of God. The Spirit even drew us to the Father in the beginning of our walk. He helps us in our weakness, He intercedes for us with wordless groans. 

A compelling passage about our Teacher is in 1 Corinthians 2:

9 However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"-- 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: 16 "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

I need the Holy Spirit desperately, but more than that, I need to be sensitive to His stirrings. Just like Helen could sit next to you and feel your anxiety, fear, happiness, etc... She could not see or hear you, but she knew. She could sense your feelings. 

The Word tells us not to quench the Spirit. I need His direction, I desperately need to know the great truths of the Word, How can I remain in the “Light” if I am hard hearted? If I am not tuned in to my Teacher? 

May I always remain close. Keep my heart tender and sensitive. Thank you Blessed Jesus for the Holy Spirit. Where would I be without Him? 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Ugly Curve

When life throws you an ugly curve, and your life changes dramatically, you start to question your purpose. You’re tempted to question God. You wonder about tomorrow. 

“I was doing well in this vocation, this ministry. What happens to the God given dreams now? Where do I go from here? Are all the doors of opportunity closed for good? Will I be stuck here the rest of my life?”

Or, “Have I let God down? Will I ever rise from this? Am I still valuable?”

I’ve struggled with these feelings off and on since January. My job change left me floundering at times. My confidence was shaken. 

I remember the ones in the Bible who experienced this. Moses, who was cast away in the wilderness, supposedly to be never heard from again. David, who was constantly on the run, living in caves. Elijah, hiding out in a cave, bowed down in depression. Jonah, in the belly of a whale in the bottom of the ocean. Peter, back in the boat fishing, convinced he is a complete failure. 

And yes, Joseph. You had to know I was getting to him right? 

When you read their stories, it encourages and builds your faith so much. Because you find out that what looked to be the “end” only was a stepping stone to a greater ministry. It ended up to be a spiritual promotion. 
God wasn’t done with them yet. He had greater plans for them. In fact, it was way beyond their imaginations wasn’t it? It went far deeper than they expected. 

Because you see, spiritual promotion is far different than worldly promotion. It takes you deeper than you ever been. It pulls you closer to the Father’s heart. It tenderizes your heart. Your spiritual perception is clearer. Your spiritual appetite is more acute. 

In other words, He has your heart now like He didn’t before. 

Deep intense work like this involves you letting go. You need to rest in His hands and learn from Him. Like the Potter and the clay. The clay on the spinning wheel rests in the Potter’s hand as He molds and forms the yielding clay into something beautiful. 

The clay doesn’t rise up and ask the Potter, “what are you doing? And why are you doing it this way?” 

Beloved, please know that the Potter knows the plans He has for you. He can and will make something beautiful of you. You are valuable to Him. This season you are in now is only a preparation for what is to come. Your character is being formed now. Because of your trust, you will be a powerful vessel in His hands. 

Nothing can sway His intentions for you. Joseph himself said this to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” 

He is entrusting others to you. There are needy lives you will touch and point to Jesus. Do you understand why this deep inner work is so needed? 

I am realizing this in my life as well. My life shift has not been the end. God has led me to new adventures I didn’t expect. I’ve had new doors open up. 

More importantly, I’ve changed. He’s done a work in me through this experience. I pray that the truths I’ve shared have encouraged you. Know beloved, that you are valuable and beautiful to Him. You will testify to His goodness and faithfulness. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why Pray?

 “I don’t get it. Why do we have to persevere in prayer to get God to save someone? Do our prayers have a time limit? Do they run out? Do we have to bother God 24/7 to get Him to save? Must we persist to keep our faith alive for that salvation?” This man was responding to an article about persistent prayer.  His defeatist attitude troubled me.
Why believe? Why keep praying for a circumstance that doesn’t change, and likely won’t change tomorrow or even months from now? Why keep praying for a lost loved one who defiantly rebels against God? And what good did it do when God seemingly says no? 
When do we give up praying? When do we lower our shield of faith and concede the battle? 
Why believe? Why even bother praying, if it is a bother to my Heavenly Father? Isn’t that the point here? We aren’t a bother; it isn’t a waste of time and effort.  1 John 5:14-15 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of Him.”  
In Luke 18, Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow, “to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” She kept bothering this unjust judge who cared nothing about her situation. She eventually wore down this judge who finally gave her justice. Jesus then concludes with this powerful question: “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?”
Do you feel that God doesn’t care or see? Does it feel like a waste of time to continue in faith? Let me assure you that He does see and care. He is nothing like the unjust judge. It isn’t a waste to persist in prayer. If you had no faith, would you truly be better off?  You can’t live without faith. You have to continue to believe for the answer. 
What other choice do you have? “Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25-26 
 Who else do you have? Where exactly can you go for strength and grace? Who will help in your time of need? I don’t know about you, but I have no choice but to persist in prayer. I have to trust my Heavenly Father. He has always proved true, even when my circumstances didn’t change, the healing didn’t appear, and the loved one remained unsaved. 
I can testify to persistent prayer. I prayed for eleven years for my husband to come back to Jesus. I wasn’t always faith-filled. Sometimes I listened too much to the lies of the enemy. “Why pray? He will never change. This is too impossible.” Then the fears would overwhelm, “It will always be like this. How will your son grow up in such an atmosphere? Your life is essentially over.” 
Yet through the roughest storms, I persevered in prayer; even though the pain was raw and sharp. Perhaps this may sound dramatic, but I’m sure some of you may know exactly where I’m coming from. 
It was this tenacity to believe, to cling to my Jesus that brought me through stronger. I allowed it to change me first. I had to lay my husband in God’s hands and leave Him there. I had to trust and not take over. This is not easy to do. Yet it was essential to my prayer being answered. 
My persistent prayer was answered. And I believe yours will too. In the meantime, I implore you not to give up. You desperately need His grace, His strength to go through this. Yes… through is the key word here. You will come through a mighty woman of faith. You will testify to His goodness. 
There have been other seasons in my life that I had to persevere in prayer. More recent my job situation. My God has proved true. Whether the answer comes or not, He is sufficient. 
I am amazed at how He changes my heart in this process of prayer. I am tenderized from my hardness. 
Prayer is not a waste of time. You need to seek His face like you need air to breathe. Go after Him with all your heart. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Don't get ugly!

I’ve developed a personal rule to allow myself to complain or whine one time. Just once I’ll indulge myself. 

I’ve been around people, and I’m sure you have too, that indulge a little too much, if you know what I mean. I don’t want people hiding from me when they see me coming. So I’ve chose to do this. 

Because it’s slowly occurred to me that I can spread seeds of negativity pretty easily. Notice that I say slowly. It’s hard to learn this, because we all are rather selfish if you want to be honest about it. At least I am learning right? Better to be growing and maturing in my spiritual walk, then to still be a miserable old cow, (yes I said it!) when I’m in my 80’s. 

And I say easy, because it is so much easier to focus on yourself and indulge in self pity. It’s remarkably easy to spread poison around. 

Again, it comes down to a choice. It always seems to don’t it? I can choose to go around and whine, gripe, and rage to whoever will listen about what a victim I am, how mistreated I am. Or  I can stand up and be the woman of grace that I truly am. Because I’ve been given Grace. I am remarkably blessed. 

Instead of seeing the weeds in the garden of life, I want to see the beautiful flowers. I want to plant the flowers. 
If you want butterflies, you must plant flowers.  If you are focused on garbage, you get flies. 

As I’ve studied the life of Joseph, it became glaringly true that he didn’t allow the ugliness to diminish his integrity. He left such an impression on those around him by his character and diligence. 

Think about it; here’s the favorite son, who’s been doted on, now a slave. He’s doing menial work. The Bible says clearly that Potiphar was so impressed with Joseph that he entrusted his whole household to him. 

Then Potiphar’s floozie wife slanders him and gets him thrown into prison. 

But in the prison, Joseph still shined. It says that the warden eventually put Joseph in charge of those imprisoned. He entrusted him with everything. 

When a person has been mistreated, and reduced to such a lowly position, the temptation is strong to not give a care. Why even try? Just do enough to slide by. Who’s going to care anyway? What difference does it make if I don’t give an effort.

Joseph didn’t do that. He did more than just work hard, he proved to be trustworthy. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that he was a joy to be around. 

And it’s obvious he didn’t bend everybody’s ear to spread negative poison around either. Although who could blame him if he did? 

Very sobering stuff I know right? You can understand now why he has been such an inspiration to me. 

As I was pondering on these things, and writing this blog, I thought of the passage in Romans 7.

verse 24 “I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question? 25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” The Message

The pull of self is very strong as you know. But thank God, It doesn’t have me in a stranglehold. I’m not helpless in its pull. I need Him so badly. He’s the Vine to my branch. 

Because of Him, I don't have to be ugly, just because life is ugly.