By Faith, Gerbil…

11 06 2015

When our three-year-old granddaughter showed up on Friday with her swimsuit and goggles in her arms, I knew one thing for sure:

There was a pool in her future!

She had been asking Grandpa for one, suggesting that he take his truck so she could get the box home. This went on for a couple of weeks.

On Friday, she changed her tactics. Instead of asking to go to the store, our little Gerbil (affectionately so nicknamed for how she sounds when she speaks – too cute!), told Grandpa that she would take him to the sale. Now, who can resist a sale!

She returned home with her parents later that night, undaunted by the fact that her ‘prayer’ was still unanswered.

We marveled at her faith, her persistence – and her calm assurance that she would receive that for which she asked. No temper tantrums, no whining; just patient waiting.

Impressive for a three-year-old!

You know what happened next:

We went shopping on Saturday for a wading pool!

At the same time, I’d been asking Abba for a writing table; a dedicated place for my laptop where I could be with my hubby while I work. Like Gerbil, I was patiently waiting.

That same Saturday, Wendel said, “Hey. Why don’t we go find a writing table for you.”

Out of the blue, just like that.

“You know,” he said, “we could learn a lot from Gerbil. Instead of taking the car, let’s take my truck. That way, when we find your table we can bring it home with us.”

Following Gerbil’s lead, he took a step of faith.

(Or would it be called a “drive” of faith?)

We went to a consignment shop and looked at every table. They didn’t have what I was looking for.

I finally decided that I could ‘make do’ with one of them if we took the shelf off the top. We were looking it over to see how difficult it would be when the owner of the store came to see what we were doing.

After we explained, she said, “Did you see the drop-leaf table over there?”

Over where? We’d looked at every piece of furniture.

Or so we thought.

Sure enough, hidden in plain sight, was exactly what I was looking for.

It’s amazing what we can learn from a three-year-old!

It was fun to watch my Father reward the kind of ‘faith that asks with expectancy’ for both my granddaughter and my husband.

While this lesson “in the natural” was great – we all got what we wanted – it will no doubt encourage faith in weightier, “spiritual” matters as well.

Assurance of the thing for which we’ve asked is important

– especially when we know that what we’ve asked is in God’s will.

There was a matter for which I prayed with expectancy for years. As time wore on, however, my prayers became rote – I prayed less often, and more because I “ought” to, than because I anticipated the fulfillment of my request.

This is a dangerous state of mind. Doing so can cause us to miss out on the gift when it comes.

Like Zechariah, it can seem like too little, too late. We’ve lived with the stigma of barrenness for so long that it’s become familiar; comfortable.

Instead of gratitude, bitterness erupts.

That was my situation this year. Even though God spoke (Behold I am doing a new thing…Isaiah 43:19), and there was no denying the ever-enlarging abdomen of the forthcoming birth of the answer to my long-forgotten prayers, my response was less than gracious.

I’d resigned myself to the status quo. It became a ‘badge of honor,’ and for some absurd reason, didn’t want to give it up!

Much of the year was spent unraveling the multitude of lies I came to believe when God tarried (by my standards 😉 ) in moving on my request. Even though my request was being fulfilled, in my bitterness I nearly ‘aborted’ His gift, then considered putting it up for adoption. I came to believe that I didn’t want it anymore.

I was angry! At my age?? Really? Why couldn’t You have done this when I was young enough to fully enjoy it??

(No, I am not pregnant!)

You understand what I am saying? Sometimes the thing for which we ask seems like it would have been better ‘delivered’ when we were younger, more agile, and had more time to enjoy the benefits of the fulfillment…careers, relationships, etc.

I love that even when we’ve given up, God is faithful to do that which He has promised.

All that to say this:

For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry. ~Habakkuk 2:3

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. ~Romans 8:25

When we patiently wait with anticipation – especially when everything tells us that it’s hopeless – our names are added to Hebrews 11:

By faith, (your name here!)…





Behold, She Stinketh!

8 06 2015

Whose ‘skin’ fit best? A good question – one I had not considered before, really.

When reading Scripture, I search for Jesus in the stories – especially the Old Testament. I’ve learned much about Him using this method.

On this day, however, two separate people made the same suggestion:

Find yourself in the story to see what the Lord desires to show you.

The posts I wrote concerning Lazarus came to mind. Which one was me? Easy: Lazarus!

I still recall the day I met Jesus for the first time. The Sunday school teachers told us about Him and His great love for us. He captured my heart that day, and I welcomed Him as Lord and lover of my soul.

We became fast friends and I could ‘listen’ to Him talk for hours (through His Word, through pastors and teachers).

Then came the day when I was desperately ‘ill.’ Others went to bid Him come and heal me.

Imagine my hurt and confusion when He tarried, and seemingly allowed me to slip from life.

Dead.

Cold.

Isolated.

Surrounded by darkness.

So bound that I could scarcely move.

I thought He loved me. How could He treat me this way?

Just when all hope was gone, a light broke into my tomb, and I heard Him call my name.

Despite the tight cocoon-like wrapper, I managed to get to my feet. Shuffling along, I made my way back to the light of day.

Every movement brought a fresh whiff of the stench of death.

Then I heard Jesus command that my bonds be loosed by the onlookers.

Some looked on in horror. Others covered their noses and drew back, repulsed by the sight and putrid odor.

Thankfully, some braved the mess and began to set me free. Even some of these were overcome and also pulled away.

Bit by bit the grave clothes were removed.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that beneath the wrappings I was naked!

What to do?

At first I clung to those disgusting rags. I didn’t want to be exposed.

Awkward!

Embarrassment and humiliation became additional shrouds to be peeled away. I didn’t want anyone to see me in this state.

I had a choice to make: maintain my dignity and remain in bondage – or submit to being stripped bare in humility.

Finally the stench became so nauseous that I could no longer endure it. I surrendered to the gentle hands as they removed layer after layer from my heart.

Still in a weakened condition, others had to bathe me. At last I was dressed in fresh, clean clothes.

We marveled at the miracle of which we’d been a part.

‘Happily ever after’ loomed large on the horizon.

Instead, I found myself a target! I was hunted like a fugitive by Jesus’ enemies from that time on.

That’s a loose paraphrase of Lazarus’ story, laid over my own.

I found myself overtaken by ‘disease’ through no fault of my own.

As a teen, I began to ask Jesus to come heal me. He said He loved me, so a prompt response seemed like a no-brainer.

Instead, He took His time…so much that I was inwardly dead when He arrived.

Hopelessness, despair, unbelief that He could do anything at this point – these were the emotions I felt.

Abandoned.

Forsaken.

Forgotten.

These are the lies I believed.

Nevertheless, He called me from death to life and asked for volunteers to do the unpleasant work of releasing me from my putrid ‘grave clothes.’

Some didn’t know how – and shrank back.

For others, the mess was overwhelming. Offended by the stench, these also slipped away.

Some even tried to shove me back into the ‘tomb!’

A few brave, compassionate souls, though, came forward one by one and began to gently peel away my bonds. This took many years of counseling and prayer. To these women I will be forever grateful.

These sweet ladies not only removed the mess, but lovingly bathed and dressed me.

What amazes me most is that, instead of being seen as a living example of Jesus’ ability to bring life from death, the ‘religious’ folks did their best to ‘kill’ me. They would have liked nothing better than to see me bound up once again, and removed from sight. Sadly, some of these I once called ‘friend.’

Go figure!

************

That was an entry from my journal last October. It’s been a smelly, messy ordeal that took more than a year this time. I’m in the ‘being bathed’ phase at long last, and am not as stinky. God is good!

Jesus came to give us life to the full. He stated His intentions in Luke 4:18-19:

The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to
the poor;
He has sent Me
to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to
the blind,
To
set at liberty those who are oppressed;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

He heals our wounds by revisiting memories with us. He gives us a new identity. He gives insight and revelation – a fresh perspective on old thoughts, and delivers us from the hands of the evil one. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Jesus doesn’t heal in this way. I am walking, living, breathing proof that He does!

Salvation is so much more than a future home in heaven. It is eternal life, beginning now!

I wonder, which Bible stories most resonate with you?





The Playfulness of Abba

27 05 2015

When I prayed in March of 2014, I had no idea what God would do with my request! It was during Jim Bailey’s Legacy class. The prayer was something like this:

“Father, you came to heal us, to give us sight, deliver us, and set us free. Would you look under every rock, and overturn every stone in our hearts? Leave no place untouched by Your Spirit.”

Okay, we asked God to search our hearts. No big deal, right?

The next month, life was leveled by a series of events that left me in a broken heap, with little faith left in God. I didn’t talk to Him, and certainly didn’t want to hear anything He had to say.

During Legacy, I met Cheryl Stasinowsky, a very gifted counselor. We’d gone to coffee once during the summer. When life fell apart, I realized that our meeting was orchestrated by God. He’d opened a door before I knew I had a need. I had enough sense to step through it.

In September I began to meet with her every week. It’s been a difficult, although fascinating journey.

At the same time, kidney stones made themselves known. Gall stones as well. If you’ve ever had either, you know that they are not fun.

Week after week, Cheryl and I would address another stronghold within me…and I would pass a kidney stone, or two, or three! Not in the usual, painful way, though. I could feel them at the base of my kidney, then feel them drop down the tube into the ‘holding tank’. That was weird!

For the gall stones, I found a homeopathic remedy online – and it really worked!

Each time, after the Lord took down a stronghold, stones were ejected!

Abba was, indeed, looking under every rock and overturning every stone.

However, during this period, I also developed a massive kidney infection. It annoys me to have to go to a doctor to tell me what I already know – just so I can get an antibiotic!!

She did her fancy tests, and confirmed: Kidney infection. I took the written prescription and headed for the pharmacy, then went home to wait until it was ready to be picked up.

By the time I returned for the pills, the infection was gone.

Completely gone!

It seemed silly to take pills for something I no longer had, so I stuck them in my drawer, knowing that I’d probably need them at a later date.

Fast-forward to last weekend.

By Thursday night, the packing was done and ready to be loaded into the car for our long weekend at the coast.

Friday morning I woke up with strep throat and bronchitis.

Great, I thought, I’m going to sleep away our vacation.

I’ve had to go to the doctor while we were out of town (kidney infection!), and it cost almost $600. I didn’t want to do that again.

Our doctor was on vacation, so a quick stop for a prescription was out of the question.

“Oh, Lord. What am I to do?”

The unused medicine came to mind. Where had I put the pills? That was several months ago.

After I found them, I looked up the medication online and discovered that it was also used for respiratory infections and strep throat.

Woohoo! By Saturday I was feeling much better.

On Sunday afternoon, we sat on the gravel beach at Dry Lagoon (just north of Trinidad). The waves were slowly advancing, for high tide was on its way.

Our quest: agates.

I’ve been reading Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge who said that you can tell a great deal about an artist by his work.

Since I was holding a handful of stones, I began to really look at each one. I realized that in my hand were more than 20 different types of rock!

I began to share what I’d been reading with my husband, and said, “This beach is evidence of the extravagance of God. You know, God could have given us one type of rock, one type of grass, of bush, of tree, and even soil. He didn’t have to give us a variety.

“After all, He didn’t spend millennium in the lab trying to figure out an ecosystem that worked. HE decided how it would all work together. He is the originator of the ecosystem…and, therefore, is not limited by it.

“Yet, He chose to give us such a diverse and interesting planet on which to live. By His work, we can see how amazing He really is!”

“WAVE!” my husband yelled, grabbing for his backpack.

I grabbed my flip-flops and scrambled for higher ground. The ‘sneaker’ wave rolled over my pants before I could get clear.

Finally on my feet, I walked up the incline.

“Hey! We were talking about You…and nicely, too,” I said to the Lord with a grin. “You owe us an agate! Oh, all right. I know. You don’t owe us anything.”

Moving to a new spot, I looked down. At my feet was…

…a beautiful smoky agate…

…in the shape of a heart.

AbbaLovesMe

I love the playfulness of my Father!





Voices in My Head

23 04 2015

“Who said that?”

How can we tell when we are hearing from God, and when the source of what we heard is from elsewhere?

Although He speaks to me, to explain how I knew that it was my Father was not as simple as I thought. I tried several times, but my explanation fell woefully short. In the end, I was less convinced than was my audience!

At long last, I get it!

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17

If we’re not careful, we can read this: “and hearing by Scripture alone.” God is without limits – and this includes the ways in which He chooses to speak.

(This first bit is nothing new. The second part, though, is what is new and helpful to me.)

Now, the most common way (to me, anyhow), is through His Word. A verse jumps off the page at me. I may not fully understand what is being communicated at that moment, but I know it has significance. It resonates within my heart.

This was my experience in 2014. Isaiah 43:19 (Behold I am doing a new thing…) came across my radar dozens of times, beginning in January.

What He meant, and what I thought He meant were two very different things…but that’s another story!

The “Verse of the Day” from the You Version Bible on January 1 of this year was – you guessed it! Isaiah 43:19. I get a do-over! Woohoo!

The point is this: He let me know through Scripture that He was on the move in my life. By highlighting that verse over and over, He was being very emphatic. No “Truly, truly I say to you…” for me. Based on the number of times I came across this verse, I think He might have been talking “good and loud” – maybe even shouting – so I would hear Him!

Another way God speaks is through others. This is one of my least favorites, for it takes great discernment. Is what they said in line with what God reveals about Himself in Scripture, and with who He says I am? Is it consistent with the Word?

These should be written down and prayed over, not accepted at face value – no matter how godly the person who gave the “word” seems to be. I’ve gotten myself into messes countless times because I trusted the person, thus their counsel – but did not bother to seek God concerning what was said.

Leaving God out of the loop is never a good idea!

Another common way He communicates to me is through nature. I have a windowsill full of heart-shaped rocks. Hummingbirds come close enough that I could reach out and touch them. These are like little kisses on my cheek and remind me that I am dearly loved.

There are many other ways in which He communicates, as well. You probably know them better than I.

The question becomes,

“How do we know for sure that God is the source?”

In the past, I’ve been unable to state this part – even when I’ve been absolutely positive that it was my Father who spoke.

I finally got a handle on this in a way that I can share.

First, when I think I’ve heard from the Lord I must consider:

Does this increase my faith? After all, faith comes by hearing. If I am less confident in the Lord, then He is not speaking.

Next, does it stir up the Fruit of the Spirit? Do I have more of any of them?

  • More love?
  • More joy?
  • More peace?
  • More patience? (This one is a big tip-off for me!)
  • More kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness?
  • More self-control? (Another cue that helps me)

For instance, God once spoke to me through a movie I was watching. He pointed out the main character and stated that this is what He was going to do in a rather unsavory person whom I knew.

His word to me immediately increased my faith. It changed how I treated this person, and gave me a great deal of patience with them. When their behavior was crazy, I now had the ability to bite my tongue and keep loving them.

That was several years ago, and we are seeing the fruit of God’s work in this person. On my own, I’d never have believed it to be possible. His word gave me faith to believe.

Finally, does the “word” release me? Does it bring freedom?

This isn’t the sort of “release” that says, “Go ahead and leave your marriage, quit your job, or (basically) run away.” It doesn’t instantly end a trial or make life all better.

It is the sort of release that frees me to persevere without the baggage of fear, anxiety, worry. I am released from the belief that it’s all up to me.

When I’ve heard from the Lord, I feel settled in my heart. The chains that previous bound me concerning the matter fall away.

If I think I’ve heard from Abba, but do not have an increase in faith, the fruit of the Spirit, or a sense of freedom, then I know it was not His voice!

That’s my 833 words on the subject!

Do you have other methods by which you determine “Who said that?” Do tell. ❤





Life-Giving Grace

8 01 2015

“Hello, my name is (Name Your Failure Here).”

Ever felt that way? Believed it deep down? This is how I secretly ‘defined’ myself for years.

There’s good news for us:

Grace is radical!

I don’t think we even begin to comprehend the freedom we have because of this marvelous characteristic of God.

This shackle-cutting truth escaped my understanding, for sure. Thus, most of my life, I’ve lived from a position of “because of my failures, I am unlovable” and worked hard to earn Father’s love.

However, grace is not something we earn. It is a gift, freely given by God. (Ephesians 2:8-9). In fact, the very faith by which we believe in Jesus is a gift, and not something we “worked up” in order to become His.

Where my ignorance nearly became my undoing is in the area of failure.

Sometimes these were unexpected outcomes. I never saw it coming. For these I can believe there is grace.

However, sometimes the failure came as a result of premeditated sin. I chose to do the wrong thing. The end result was failure on many levels.

God didn’t “owe” me grace for my eyes-wide-open sin. I messed up. There were consequences, and I just had to buck up and get through life as best I could.

Is this the kind of life Jesus died to give me??

Reality check: When Jesus died, all my sins were yet future. Even those I have yet to commit. (Yes, because I am still breathing, I will continue to sin…even if it is confined to my thoughts. Um, so will you!) See Romans 5:8.

NO!!

He came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

While we were yet sinners!

What I discovered this last year is that I have been tolerating much in the name of “consequences” for my premeditated sin. There was no grace for this, in my mind. I did it. I deserved what I got as a result of my choices.

What did I do, then, with one of my cornerstone verses: I know the plans I have for you…plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope?

I had it figured out that, because of my poor choices, I would just have to “gut this out” for the rest of my life. My ‘hopeful future’ would now have to wait for heaven…and I longed for death so I could get there.

With enough effort on my part, once I arrived I wouldn’t be stuck as a shoe-shine girl on the corner of Celestial Avenue and Heavenly Way.

Underneath all of my “understanding” was seething hatred of a God who could be so harsh as to leave me where I was with a “Tut-tut! You should have chosen more wisely.”

I believed that God was withholding His promises from me because of my own stupidity.

I would tell you that God is good – but didn’t believe it for myself.  My private opinion of His character was that He was cruel and unloving.

How could He tell call Himself my loving Father – and yet demand that I live my life as a victim as a ‘consequence’?

I believed that due to my failures I was no longer worthy of anyone’s love. “This is your new normal. Deal with it.”

I believed that all I could expect from Him was ‘just enough’ to make it through life.

This, my friends, is what happens when we seek man’s concepts about God, grace, love, and all the rest – instead of asking God Himself. We can, and should, seek godly counsel; but don’t stop there. Take their words to the Lord and ask Him to reveal what is true and what is not (Acts 17:11).

Well-meaning spiritual counselors and advisers spoke Scripture into my situation…but I don’t think they stuck around to see how I processed what they said; what their words looked like after it went through my “God” filters.

I’ll bet they’d have been horrified.

Satan also used Scripture to try to derail Jesus. No doubt he continues this today. Since everything I ‘thought’ I heard turned out to be a lie…and the oldest lie in the Book (God is holding out on you), I know he was an active participant in how I understood what I was told.

Here’s what I know today:

My failure(s) did not create me; therefore, they cannot define me. Only God can tell me who I am…and He calls me “Beloved,” “Delightful,” and “Princess.” I am fully forgiven. {sigh of relief!}

Yesterday, I had to do a “Hard Thing.” (I’m loving Havilah’s study!) On the way back to my car, I sidestepped a large rock. When I glanced at it, I noticed that it was a heart!

(I have a mound of them. They are God’s special communique to me of His love.)

He was letting me know that I’d done well, and that He is proud of the steps I’m taking to walk in victory at last.

His grace is radically sufficient…for even me!

My Father loves me!

My Father loves me!