Thursday, September 20, 2018

Warring Sandals and Words of Praise

I woke up with a feeling of anxiety anchored  right in the pit of my stomach.  When did I let go of my peace?  That is a question Pastor Bill Johnson asks himself when he feels any anxiety or undo stress.  Where did I leave my peace?  Anxiety and fear are really the enemy's tools to keep us separated from God, the Lord of Peace and Truth.

I sat quietly with Joel that morning and waited for God......immediately I heard a melody in my head but I could not come up with one word of the lyrics.  I hummed the melody to Joel and he came up with one word.....Lord.  Then eventually  a phrase...."Lord, listen to your children praying..."  With the help of google we came up with an old 70's song........

I closed my eyes again and saw on my feet, unusual sandals.  I asked Him what kind of sandals they were and heard the word "warring".  I then saw a sword in my hand, that turned into a Bible.  The pages of the Bible were turning on their own by a wind.....a Spirit wind I expect.  I heard "Jeremiah" and then "33".  I don't often get scriptures this way, but Joel and I read chapter 33 that morning and I am spending time meditating and studying the chapter and what God wants me to learn from it. I expect it has something to do with the words that jumped out at me in verse 11...."Praise GOD........"  and "sacrifice of praise".  

I confess that part of me wants to say, "enough already"!  Enough with the warring and the praise...but evidently I am still to use praise as a weapon of warfare in my current circumstances.  Get my focus off the problem and on to the solution.  Our Lord really has supplied so many tools for us to walk through life and praise is one mentioned over and over in the Bible.  

I have been reading Ana Werner's new book, "Seeing Behind The Veil" this week.  She mentions often the importance of praise and worship.  It seems to shake up the enemy and his crew of vultures when we praise the name of our God most high.  He hates it.  Not only does it have a devastating affect on Satan but it also centers us as we remember how great is our God!

In some ways, everything we do or say can be a form of worship.  Whether we are taking care of our family, working at a computer, teaching students, sweeping floors, or giving a sermon, we are God's hands and His voice.  We are honoring Him in all we do.  A form of worship and praise.  

So let's just praise the our voice to heaven and praise the Lord in gratitude. Another old worship song!   Jeremiah spoke God's words in chapter 33...

" .......the voice of those who will say,

Praise the Lord of hosts
foe the Lord is good
And His mercy endures forever.

and those who will bring the sacrifice of praise 
into the house of the Lord......."
Jeremiah 33:11

Monday, September 17, 2018

A New Thing In Old Wrappings

A scripture given to us at Bethel Church

Joel has accepted a call to be a part time interim at two churches south of Mason City.  He began this past Saturday, preaching yesterday at St. Peter and St. Paul Lutheran churches in two small towns about twenty minutes apart. We left the house before eight and arrived home half past twelve.  It felt familiar, the routine of Joel up front and me in a pew.  As I said before, it was not on our radar.........or our bucket list, but it was on God's.  The journey to this decision was orchestrated by God.  It is a story to be shared.  

A few weeks ago a friend told me God had spoken a word to her for me.  "Tell Renee; to get ready.  I am going to be speaking to her."  I began praying, telling God I was ready and if I was not, then make me ready.  It was only a few days later that God showed up in my dreams.......

But first let me back up a bit.  A few weeks ago Joel told me that a pastor we knew had retired early to help out her brother, so at the time I wondered aloud if they had gotten an Interim yet.  He felt the people would be hiring a lay person who was helping out at the church already.  Then we ran into someone from that church In Rockwell IA where Joel was once an Interim.  After visiting with her  I remember thinking "They are going to want Joel for their Interim" since he had worked there before and they enjoyed him so much.   This did not really bring up any feelings for me since Joel was not interested in doing any Interim work.  He liked the "fill-in" Sunday work, leaving most of the week free for other pursuits.  But God......

A few weeks later Joel and I had just finished listening to the prophetic session we had experienced while at Bethel Church and were discussing the words spoken to us about doing a "new thing" , a new ministry, when the phone rang.  When Joel answered it an Asst. to the Bishop of our synod was on the other end asking if Joel was interested in being an Interim for the Lutheran churches in Rockwell and Thornton.  Joel looked at me and I said, "Say yes", then wished I could take back those words.  This would not be a new thing but more of the "old" ministry and that is exactly what I expressed to Joel as we discussed the possibility.  
During this time period is when our friend, who knew nothing about our current situation,  told me to "get ready".  Now...............the dream............

About 4 in the morning I woke up from a dream I had.  In the dream I was looking at what I thought was our SUV.  I heard God say, "I am giving you a new car."  I immediately began arguing with God...."We don't need a new car.  We like our car".  Joel was there and chimed in....."We like our car, we don't need a new car."  God said a second time, firmly..."I am giving you a new car!"  Then I woke up.

The next morning I told Joel about the dream and felt we were to meditate on it.  As soon as I closed my eyes Jesus was there taking my hand and saying, "Come with me."  I asked Him where we were going and He said, "For a ride."  Then he got into the driver's seat of what I believed was our SUV.  I got in the seat behind Jesus and Joel got in up front on the passenger's side.  I said, "Is this a new car?  Jesus said, "Yes."  I said, "It looks like our old car, but it is a new car?"  Jesus said yes and then threw his head back and laughed and laughed.  He then turned to me and said, "Let me drive."   I immediately found myself outside the car with Jesus.  I said, "Ummmm, thank you?"  And Jesus said, "Yes!  That is what I wanted to hear!"

This visual encounter and dream made things pretty clear to Joel and me.  So, out of obedience Joel interviewed with the churches and accepted a call to work part time as they transition and search for a new pastor.  This Interim position looked to me like something "old", not a new ministry.......but God was telling us something different.

A week ago we drove to Rochester MN, about 1 hour and 40 minutes from us, to attend Destiny Church, which is somewhat based on Bethel church in CA.   After church you could meet with someone who may have a prophetic word for you.  Three women met with Joel and me and once again God came through about us doing a new thing.......wrapped up in an "old package".  

It often amazes me how much God wants to speak to us and uses others to do so. I love hearing stories about how God has made His voice heard for His purposes.   For us there was no way to avoid what God was saying through our friend, the dream, the visual encounter and the prophetic words at Destiny church.  His message was clear.  We are grateful for how clearly God spoke to us about this position, grateful for the opportunity to serve others, grateful for God's guidance. We don't fully understand it, but God does.  Sometimes a "new thing" comes in old wrappings and we look forward to how God will unwrap this opportunity before us.  

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Yellow Brick Road

I was quietly sitting with my eyes closed, having asked God to speak to me through what I call a visual encounter.  Letting God use my mind/imagination to show me things He wants me to see.  This day I saw round brown stepping stones scattered around in front of me.  I watched myself step from one to another, back and forth, in no real order.  When I looked up I saw a large beam of yellow light coming towards me in a straight line.  Suddenly a huge  being came down out of the sky landing on the ground a few yards in front of me.  The earth shook when he landed.  I questioned if this was God, but he turned around and I saw several wings on his back.  This giant angel started walking towards the source of the light and with each step the ground shook.  I then heard the words........"Follow the yellow brick road." 

The yellow brick road.  I love it when God uses the familiar to get His point across.   Sometimes Joel and I feel like we are just hopping from one stone to another with little direction.  And then God sends us a clear message of what His plan is and we find ourselves saying..."Are you sure, Lord?"  Are you sure this is what you want us to do?  Maybe we will just go back to what  was comfortable, wandering from stepping stone to stepping stone, a bit like the Israelites in the wilderness.  Is this the right path....maybe this is.......And then God says, "Follow the yellow brick road".  Follow that beam of light beckoning to us from God Himself.

Have you heard the story about a man who fell off a cliff, but was able to hang on to a branch sticking out of the side to keep himself from crashing.  He asked God for help and heard.........."Let go of the branch".  He asked again and got the same answer.  The man then said, "Is there anyone else out there?"  God's response required some big time trust and made no sense.  Maybe someone else had a better idea?

Sometimes God requests us to do something that does not make a lot of sense at the time.  He asks us to trust Him whether we understand the purpose or not.  In His word we read................."For I have plans for you, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."  (Jeremiah 29:11).  That is what we hang on to.

I remember when we were sure God wanted Joel to get an "early out" of the Air Force, move to St. Paul and go to seminary.  We visited friends at Luther Sem and were so sure it was God's plan we spent time looking for a house to buy and found one by a grade school and close to the Seminary.  We almost put in an offer but decided to wait until Joel got the papers releasing him from the Air Force.  We went home and Joel went it to fill out the paperwork for an early out.  The clerk, said, "You can't get an early out, you have orders!"  Joel was surprised to say the least, but asked...."Where am I going?"  The clerk said, "The Philippine Islands."  Joel was overdue for a remote one year tour without his family, so he asked if he was going accompanied or unaccompanied.  The clerk said, "Accompanied".  We then began the process of moving overseas to experience what turned out to be two of the most amazing and life changing years of our lives.  We thought we had the path all figured out and were sure we knew what God had planned, but the "yellow brick road" led us to expand our family, meet friends for life, grow our faith, and experience living in a third world country.

The yellow brick road looks different for each of us, and at different times in our lives.   God sees beyond ourselves to His plan for His children and He asks us to follow Him.  Sometimes it is risky, sometimes it is confusing, sometimes it is glorious, but always it is best because His plan for us and for His world is good, not evil.   Do you find yourself on a yellow brick road?  If so, remember that God is leading the way.  He asks us to follow him and trust him on our journey as we listen and watch for His directions.  Just follow the yellow brick road....................

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Corn Trees?

The sun is coming in our living room window at a different angle now and it is setting close to eight o'clock.  A shift is taking place as nature prepares for harvest and winter beyond.  The air lately has been dry and crisp and 70 degrees in September does not feel the same as 70 degrees in July.  Autumn is coming.

I love Autumn.  The colors, smells, sounds all bring a smile to my face.  Our resident squirrels are storing food, geese are gathering in our empty but soon-to-be-filled with new houses field, and even the deer have started to switch from nibbling on flowers to chewing on bushes.  Where we live it is not uncommon to look out and see deer grazing in yards.  Especially our neighbor's across the street.  He likes to feed them corn.  The deer love it and so do the squirrels.  We have found more than one cob in your yard.  And recently we discovered corn growing in our tree!

We looked up in our tree and about 6 feet off the ground a corn plant was growing right in the middle!  I expect a squirrel dropped a kernel of corn in a crevice of the tree and then it rained and now we are growing corn!  We also have corn growing in the yard, but just mow it down every time Joel gets out the lawn mower. 

I'm not so sure the resident squirrels intentionally planted corn in our tree...the yard maybe, but not the tree.  And yet there is was.   Of course this had me thinking about "seeds" I have planted with my words or my actions.  Have I unintentionally grown things?  Things I maybe wish I hadn't? 

Fall is always my favorite time of year.  A time for a plentiful harvest of that which we have planted.  I pray that my words and actions some day bring in a full harvest of good things, too, in all I say and do. 

I wonder how big the corn plant will grow in our tree before winter comes?  Maybe we will have our own corn tree!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Nomadic Gene

My sister Jan and her hubby Lanny are in the midst of moving to  a new townhouse, so purging and sorting and storing are the current vocabulary words coming out of her mouth.  I have to confess, I get a bit envious.  Oh, I understand that moving is hard work, but it seems to stir up the nomadic gene that runs through my blood.  New places, new adventures.  My sister is only moving across town, but it is still exciting  

We moved a lot when we were kids.  Jan moved more than me because our dad died when I was just six and she was seventeen.  She went to 14 schools, which is unacceptable in anyone's life.  We were not "military brats" either.  Just kids with a dad who could not settle in one place for long.  A traveling salesman who mostly traveled, coming home periodically to say hi or pack us "up for another move. At age three, when I would say, "Let's go home", I meant the car.  We must have spent a lot of time in there.  I do not recommend this way of living for anyone, but it is part of my story.  Our story.  It is what it is.

One of our son-in-laws once asked our daughter........"Why is it when your parents hear some place new they say, "I wonder what it would be like to live there?"  Instead of VISIT there."  I think 8 years of military life and nearly 40 in the ministry set us up for a nomad life of sorts.  Our kids did not go to 14 schools, but too many schools I am sure.  They have a world view which is great, but they also have no "hometown" to return to when they visit the folks.

We have lived in this house now 14 years.  I have not lived anywhere that long in my lifetime.  In fact I had never lived anywhere longer than 7 1/2 years until we moved here.  It is a bit strange and I often have to balance the nomadic wandering gene with the idea of staying in one place.  I know I love traveling across the country in a car.  I guess that makes sense sconsidering our past.  

When I talk about my home as a child, I think mostly about where i spent the longest amount of time ~ 7 1/2 years in one town.  Still, it is not a place I go back to.  Our kids have pretty much settled in to their communities now, and their children will know the familiarity and security found in being raised in one place.  There is something to be said for that.  They find other ways to see the world!  

Do you have a place you go back to?  Have you spent your life in one community?  Are you like Dorothy who says...."There is no place like home....."   For our full time RVer friends, they are seeing the country while taking their home with them.  That seems ideal in some ways doesn't it.  Having your traveling and your home too.....kinda like having your cake and eating it too!  For me, home is where Joel is. Period.  I would love to be by our kids who are spread out east, west, north, and south from our location.  It does not seem meant to be.  I ponder what it will be like for them with their own kids.  So many grands will soon be embarking into the world and making their own way.  I wonder if any of them will have a nomadic gene or will they nest in their own communities.  Who can say?!

I no longer call the car "home" and I am very grateful for the community we live in.  But I am always ready for the next adventure!   Today I will suppress that nomadic gene, and I will be excited for my sister and listen to her "moving" vocabulary with a smile on my face.  In the midst of your purging, sorting, and packing Jan, enjoy the move......even if it is just across town this time.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Pitching Our Tent

It has been awhile.........Last week is a bit of a blur as I was hit hard with an intestinal flu that had me sleeping 12 hours at a time and bonding with my bed, only coming up for water and air.  What is up with that?  I was down for the count and it was not until yesterday that I felt at all normal.  Yay for normal.   This past week has had us contemplating winter.

We are in a winter season of our lives.  My health issues continue to come in rapid fire like a machine gun in the hands of the enemy.  We recently learned of the high radon we have been exposed to for the past 14 years.  It is sobering to say the least.  Our close friends have just started the greatest adventure of their lives as full time RV'ers and we are tossed by the waves of our loss and their rich blessings of a new future with Jesus at the wheel.  We were supposed to already be there to welcome them to Arizona this fall......and life intervened with breast cancer.  A shift for us that left us with a restless peace of sorts as we still call Iowa home. We just spent yet another holiday far from us and making their own memories.   Speaking of Jesus at the wheel, it seems God has clearly directed Joel (and me) to take a call as a part time Interim at two small churches south of Mason City.  It was not on our radar, nor our bucket list, but then God stepped in.  A story for another time.

We are weary of winter.

What sustains us in the winter seasons of our lives?  Hope.  Hope that comes from God's Word and His promises.  It carries us, encourages us, leads us.  Sometimes He just gives us a word that is manna for the day.  Sometimes He wakes us in the middle of the night to speak clearly.  Other times we sit is silence wrapped in His wings as we wait and believe tomorrow will be better.  Hope.  There is a verse that I found years ago in The Message.  It is found in  Acts 2: 25, 26.

"David said it all.
I saw God before me for all time.  
Nothing can shake me, He is right by my side.  
I'm glad from the inside out, ecstatic: 
  I have pitched my tent in the land of hope."

Pitch that tent in the land of hope.  Hammer the stakes in deep and climb inside.  Let it be His wings that enfold you.  Rest, weep, sing, or just breathe.  Hold on to the thread of hope...hope that may be light as a feather but also is able to carry us as we soar like eagles.  Winter will turn to Spring.

Havilah Cunnington spoke recently on the seasons of our lives.  She gave people 5 things to hold on to in the winter season.  1.  God will be faithful to you.  2.  God is fully aware of your season.  3.  God is all powerful in every season.  4.  God is working everything out for good....5.  Seasonal change will eventually come. 

Today is a good day for a miracle!  Doesn't that statement alone give you hope?  I'm all for that. There is hope that seasonal change is coming.  Hope that promises and prophecies will be fulfilled.  And always the hope of knowing the ultimate victory is ours. Hope is ours for the choosing.  Pitch your tent in the land of hope and rest in knowing God is faithful.  He is always faithful.