Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday's Scribbles: The Land Of Giants

I was listening to a pastor tell his story.......He had started a church in Florida.  Over the years it had grown greatly and a 45,000 foot addition was added on.  The church was doing well, the pastor's wife had a wonderful job, and they had built their dream home on five acres of land.  They planned to live the rest of their lives out in this house, at this church.  All was good.  And then.......As the pastor was out walking one morning, he heard God tell him it was time to leave this church.  Needless to say, it stunned him, but he knew he could not ignore this command if it was from God.

So pastor Tom went home and told his wife what had happened.  She was in the bathroom brushing her hair and as he told her what he thought was a word from God, she turned to him, pointed her hair brush at him, and said..."You better be sure this is from God!"  After seeking counsel, he was affirmed in his spirit, and believed that God wanted him to leave this church, this beautiful promised land where all was well.

He left the church, with no call, and walked through a season of waiting until he was offered a position with Global Awakening.  It completely changed his life.  His comment was, "IF God tells you to walk away from what looks like the best thing, it is because He has a greater plan for your future and is leading you into something even better."

Sometimes what God asks of us looks risky and impractical.  Often impossible!  He calls us to places that do not present us with a house of our dreams and /or a big church to serve.  Sometimes He beckons us into a land where there are giants.  Maybe is it a land flowing with milk and honey, but giants show up and distract us from seeing God's plan. Can this really be what you have planned Lord?  It is darn scary here!

Pastor Tom spoke of the story of the spies coming back from the land God promised and how all but two felt it was a good land, BUT there were giants there.  Too scary.  Too risky.  They did not want to go, even though God had told them this was their land.  Only Joshua and Caleb came back and said, yes, giants are there.....BUT it is a good place! And.  God.  Promised.  Let's go!  It was a matter of trust.

Several years ago one family member moved from a place where they had good jobs, a nice home, a great church and so many great friends.  The first year or so was really tough......challenges came up in the new business, and friends were hard to come by.  Could this be God's plan?  His best for His children?  Speed ahead to today and it is a completely different story.  Flourishing.  That is what comes to mind as I think about this family.  Flourishing in all areas of their lives.  

I'm thinking we can all relate in some way to these stories.  The risks we may be called to take come in all shapes and sizes.  Could be a move to a new land.....could be trusting and seeing beyond what something appears to be.  A risk could be as small as saying hi to a stranger at church, or as big as a change in career or location.  That ol' enemy is going to do all he can to keep you from God's plan for your lives so when God speaks and shakes up our world, remember the story of Joshua and Caleb.....and be bold.  Take a step forward. Every risk requires trusting God and His plan.  Even in the lands of giants.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Day of Transition

Today president-elect Donald Trump will be sworn in as our next President.  President Obama and his family will leave the White House for the last time as the sitting President and family.  As I watch the morning news coverage, I am hearing about those who will not attend, those who will......Those who plan to protest.  What we will be watching is a transition from one man elected by the people for another.

Before I share my thoughts, I want to state clearly, I NEVER share how we vote in any election.  We have never felt comfortable doing so because of Joel being a pastor in a place of authority in the church.  He has never used the pulpit to give his agenda on politics.  It is not our way.

Recently I listened to a powerful sermon given by Bill Johnson at Bethel Church.  He talked about the transition that would be taking place, and stated........."I have always prayed for our President and those in government leadership.  I have prayed for God to use them and guide them.  I prayed for Reagan.  I prayed for Carter.  I prayed for Bush.  I prayed for Clinton.  I prayed for Bush.  I prayed for Obama.  I am praying for Trump."  He bases this on 1 Timothy 2: 1-3

"Therefore I tell you first of all 
that supplications, prayers, intercessions,
 and giving thanks be made for all men.
For kings and all who are in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life 
in a godliness and reverence. 
 For this is good and acceptable 
in the sight of God our Savior."

Pastor Bill Johnson is expressing the importance of being obedient to God.  His prayers are not for certain presidents to mend their ways, or change, or be removed from office.....or for others to be in powerful positions.........his petitions are from a desire to be obedient to God, knowing this brings peace.  Our words have power.   Our prayers have power.

We certainly see that things have changed in our country.  We have never before heard such hate spoken against our president ~ Obama~  and against our new president~ Trump.  I have never before seen such disrespect shown for those in the highest office of our country.  The freedom of speech has turned into a social media of hatred expressed.  It has at times horrified us.  And this you say your voted for Clinton you can expect strong words spoken against you.  If you say you voted for Trump you can have strong words spoken against you.  Speculation rises, but whatever the causes, it is our loss.  Our deep loss on how to treat others.

There is a political "spirit" that has entered in and divided families, friends, neighbors, cities, states, our country. It has risen on the waves of anger and hatred and it has brought with it a loss of love and hope.

We cannot let it continue.  It begins with us, what we say, how we act.  We can share our opinions, our thoughts, our actions, with love.  And we also receive the words of others with love.  We look to God for His guidance and we choose to live with integrity and an open heart.

So today, like Bill Johnson,  we will pray for our president just as we have for others during our adult lives. We will respect the office and pray for those in authority over our country.  From the local level, to the state level, to the highest office in our country.  We pray.  We pray and we look to God.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What A Beautiful Name It Is

Sunday Pastor Bill Johnson shared a personal story about his son Brian during his sermon.  When Brian was around 10 he would consistently have night terrors.  He would often climb into bed with his parents and Bill would speak over him, pray for him, comfort him.  He told Brian there were 4 ways to fight the spiritual warfare coming against him in the middle of the night.  1. Fight back with the name of Jesus. 2. Fight back with the blood of Jesus.  3. Speak God's Word over the circumstance.  4. Praise God.  (the enemy hates praise).  One night Brian did not come into their room and the next day Bill asked his son if he slept well without any night terrors.  Brian said no, but he had asked God for a verse to speak over the terrors and God gave Him one.  Brian learned to use those tools for himself and the night terrors were resolved.

Jesus ~~Savior.  Healer. Friend.  Protector. Son.  The Way * the Truth * the Life. What a beautiful name it is!   I have spoken the name of Jesus as a prayer on those occasions that I cannot sleep at night....when anxiety or a wired mind has me tossing.  I breathe in Jesus and I breath out stress.....when I breathe in I say "JESUS"  when I breathe out I exhale anxiety.  95% of the time I fall asleep.  Speaking the blood of Jesus for protection comforts me.  And I know His Word is mighty to proclaim.  Praise.....well it not only causes the enemy to run, but it fills me with joy and connects me to God.  Now if I could just remember to use these tools all the time!

I remember a story that was told about a mom who was having stomach pain.  It was pretty bad and as she lay on the sofa, her little 3 year old son came over to her, laid his hand on her tummy and said. Mommy's owies, Jesus.  Gone.  I can't help but smile when I write this.....of course her pain left.  Her child had believed, prayed with child like faith, and his mommy was healed.  Bless his little heart!

Quite a while ago my friend called me while she was traveling through crowded Phoenix.  One of her children noticed her sister was not responding well, a sign of seizures coming.  We prayed together while on the phone.  Later she called me and shared that she had felt they were to sing praises.  So they all began to praise God and sing songs of praise over her little one. Quickly she was was back to being alert and the potential for a seizure was gone.  Praise is a weapon of warfare and believe me when I say, sickness and disease is a weapon the enemy brings against us.  God provides weapons, powerful weapons for us to use against him and here is an example of praise as one of those weapons. The victory in Jesus is always ours!

One morning recently I woke from a bad had been going on for several hours so I started to think about what it meant.  I whispered, "The circumstances need to change, Lord.  Healing is provided."  A voice, His voice spoke back to me as I drifted off......"my child, pay attention to what I say...."

"My child, pay attention to what I say,  
listen carefully to my Words.  
Don't lose sight of them.
Let them penetrate deep into your heart 
 For they are life to those who find them 
and healing to their whole body."
Proverbs 4: 20-23

The Word is LIVING. POWERFUL. So is the name of JESUS.  The Bible tells us we speak life or death with our words...........Jesus tells us , "I have come to give you life and to give it to you more abundantly".

Yesterday I wrote about the weapons of warfare God provides.  Today it is still on my mind.   Are you in need of a few weapons of warfare?  Life throwing challenges your way?  Fear taking up residence?  Discouragement heavy like a yoke on your shoulders?

Turn to the weapons provided.....His WORD, His name, JESUS, His BLOOD, the action of PRAISE!  Add these to your arsenal along with Ephesians 6.....and victory is yours.

 "Mommy.  Owie.  Jesus.  Gone.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It Could Be Worse

With all the latest technology at our beck and call, we had known about the coming ice storm practically before it formed.  For days we were told to prepare for a major ice, sleet, rain, and snow event. We watched it raise havoc across the plains with damage to trees, property, and human life.

We did what we could to get ready......enough water~ ck.  candles~ ck.  bananas~ck.  (ok, that may sound weird but we get a bit crabby when we are out of bananas!) We planned on not leaving the house on Monday and settled in for the wait.

 For us the freezing rain started after midnight and continued.....and continued....until late Monday night.  It could be worse.  The roads are thick with ice and standing water in places too.  All schools cancelled.  No travel unless necessary.  Still, it could be worse.  We did not lose power in town, there was little wind and under an 1/8 inch of ice I think, so the branches are still all attached to the trees!

It could have been worse.  I think this is a phrase that somehow brings comfort to us..........whether in a ice storm or a storm of circumstances.  Things could be worse.  And I just need to say it.........things could be better too. And how about the phrase, "It is what it is".  I find those five words to be depressing for me.  When hit hard with a storm in life I don't want to hear or find myself saying, "It is what it is."  Back to the storms..............

Just how do we prepare for the storms in life?  The kind that make us weak in the knees.  Unfortunately, we often do not have prior warning of what is coming.  Something blindsides us.  Smack.  So it might just be a good idea to always be prepared for the storms.  Not in a fatalistic way, nor expecting the worst....but just knowing that the enemy would like nothing better than to hit us hard and lay us flat.  He works at it, believe you me.

So we prepare ahead of time.  We put on the full armor of God.

1.  Helmet of Salvation ~ ck.  We take care of that need for salvation.  Eternal life is ours!
2.  Breastplate of Righteousness~ ck.  We know we are sons and daughters of the KING!
3.  Belt of Truth ~ ck.  We wear it to hold everything up.  The Truth....His Truth!
4.  Shoes of Peace, Good news~ ck.  Where does our peace come from?  From Jesus and His Word.
5.  Shield of Faith ~ ck.  Keep it with you at all times....stopping the fiery arrows of the devil.
6.  Sword of the Spirit ~ ck.  His Word is powerful....Use it like a weapon!
7.  Prayer ~ ck.  Pray without ceasing.......
8.  Adding to the list..........Rest.~ ck.  Stay calm and let Him fight for us!!

These weapons prevent, prepare, protect.

And lets not forget the name of Jesus........the blood of Jesus........Scriptures declared.......and Praise!  All of this helps us be ready for the storms that come............or try to come against us.  God has not left us vulnerable.  No, He has not.  He has given us ways to prepare and stand firm and He fights for us. It could be worse.........and with the list above it will be a whole lot better!!!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday's Scribbles: Alex and Ruth

I just finished watching the movie, "5 Flights Up" starring Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton.  It is a rather low key movie about a senior couple, and their struggle with whether or not to sell their 40 year old apartment in Brooklyn NY. and move to a place with an elevator.   Of course it is about much more, and this 93 minute drama has drawn me in more than once.  In truth, Thursday I watched it for the 4th time, using a notebook to take down some of the gems that were shared by either Alex or Ruth, the characters in the movie.  I always enjoy Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman, but besides that this little "sleeper" movie seems to keep speaking to me.  Thus the notebook.

More than one of their conversations gave me pause.  Like Alex telling his wife she had to stop worrying!  Her reply....."I like worrying, it keeps me calm." (giggle) There are more than a few of us that believe that lie.....worrying makes us feel like we have some control over what is happening or could happen and therefore it may bring with it a false sense of calm.  Just maybe.

Another conversation towards the end of the movie ended with Alex saying "We are like everyone else today. Getting worked up over nothing.  Why are we moving?  What are we chasing?  Haven't we built a good life?" They had built a good life together, comfortable in their community and surrounded by friends.  They were connected to their people, their tribe.

And Ruth responding, "I don't care if we live in Brooklyn or in Moscow.  I just want what is best for you....for us."  Sometimes our families and friends think they know what is best for us.....sometimes we ourselves think we know what is best and then something shifts and our vision becomes clear and we see what we need to see....and we know that we know that we know.

Alex narrated the movie at times, and he concluded his narration by sharing that the adventure in the selling-buying process brought them right back to their beginning, full circle.......... The situation "Reminded us of who we are, what we have."  There are seasons in our lives that do exactly that.  Remind us who we are and what we have. I would add that those times also remind us Whose we are, where we rest.

We are blessed to have God guiding us.  I did not see any evidence of that in this movie....nor any time spent praying about what was best.  May be that they felt God would close doors if they made the wrong decision or maybe they did not believe God played any part in their lives at all.  That was left a mystery.

I expect that the characters in the movie were ages around 75 for Ruth and 80 for Alex, although again, that was left to us to decide.  What was not a mystery is the difficulty in managing changes in life as we age and the decisions that eventually come because of that aging.  Still, how blessed to be able to even be seniors and in the midst of what it entails.  "I don't care if we live in Brooklyn or Moscow, I just want what is best for you....for us."  That says it all, doesn't it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Christmas Connection

InCourage, a Christian web site for women,  has just published their first book, "Craving Connections".  Several authors have shared their own stories surrounding our need to be connected.  I'm thinking I will be reading this book, since my "word" for 2017 is Belonging/Connections.

While thinking about the word belonging, I have been reflecting back on a time in my life when I was going to college to be an interpreter for the deaf (in a medical setting).  Part of our requirements was service to others, and I volunteered to visit a high rise nursing home in Minneapolis.  Through my instructor I connected there with a woman who was both blind and deaf.  I communicated with her by finger spelling with American Sign Language into the palm of her hand. She could talk to me since she had not gone deaf until she was a teenager. Helen loved to "hear" from me what was going on in the world and would often ask me to sign summaries of articles out of news magazines or the newspaper. I was sent to help her, but she blessed my life richly.  I also visited with a woman who was bedridden and confined to a dark room.  I could only stay briefly and talk quietly to her.  She was once a missionary and had gotten ill on the mission field.  They both stood firm in their faith in very challenging circumstances, and with grace opened their lives to a stranger because of their need for connection with others.

On Christmas Day that year, our family went to church in downtown Minneapolis before heading to a family Christmas gathering.  At the end of the service the pastor asked for volunteers to deliver poinsettias to members in the same nursing home where I volunteered, so we picked up a few of the plants and headed over to deliver them.

This decision greatly impacted our family.  So many people on floor after floor of the high rise...their loneliness palpable.  I'm sure many had family coming to visit, but what we noticed is that people were hungry for connection that day.  After going into the dining room to deliver one poinsettia,  we had a difficult time leaving.  Our family of 7 plus one ~ my mom~ were quite the "hit" during our brief visit.   At that time, I had never seen so many people who needed to connect with others.  Not just desired....but needed.  Of course our kids were the attention grabber!  Who doesn't love kids!?!

When we lived in the Philippines we noticed that in most cases several generations lived together in the same small house or a Nipa hut.  They respected the elderly and cared for them.  I'm sure this was partly out of necessity, but it was also cultural.  The elderly stayed connected all their lives with their family, as the central figures within.  No strangers needed to provide companionship and connection.

We were created for connection......with God and others.  The new InCourage book "Craving Connection" states,  "We all long for meaningful relationships, the Colossians 3:14 kind that fulfill our desire for unity and connection with God, our friends, and our community. "  Kris Vallotton, pastor at Bethel Church in CA calls this search for meaningful relationships, the need to  "find your tribe".  

This need for connection is rooted in the core of our souls.  It was obvious to us that Christmas morning when we walked the halls of the nursing home and it is still obvious today.  Our world is more connected than ever through social media..........but also more lonely.  How does that compute?

We have a deep ingrained need to belong and to connect. God is waiting................and so, too, is our tribe.

"Above all, clothes yourselves with love, 
which binds us all together in unity."
Colossians 3:14