Thursday, March 30, 2017

In The Hallway

While scrolling Facebook yesterday morning a quote on Start Your Day With Jesus caught my attention.  "Don't stress over closed doors behind you.  God has NEW doors opening for you if you just keep moving forward."  It caught my attention because I had just read something else about closed doors from Dr. Brian Simmons who writes "I Hear Him Whisper".  He is also the author of the Passion Translation of the Bible.  The title of yesterday's "I Hear Him Whisper" was "The Right Door Will Open".   Then during morning devotions, up popped the closed doors theme once again.  Three times within an hour.

Today I listened to two separate teachings at Bethel.  One on the Holy Spirit and one on the story of Esther.  During each of those teachings "open doors" came up again.  God definitely has our attention.

Sometimes doors open wide, and we are able to see how God has made the way for us.  I remember when our oldest daughter Beth and her husband were living and working in the Twin Cities.  Bethany had been working at a church in a suburb there, when an opportunity for her to apply for a job at a church in Chicago came up.  I saw this opportunity and felt a strong urge from God to tell her about it.  A couple interviews and a job opening for her husband later, and they were on their way to Chicago.....many miles and hours away from us.  There were times I wished I had never seen that want ad in our ELCA's national magazine, but that would have been wrong. This was part of God's plan for their lives, and the 10 years they spent there were life changing.  Only God.

When doors close it can be difficult to see this as God.  A closed door can be discouraging in the moment.  When Joel was stationed in Duluth MN we visited friends at Luther Seminary in St. Paul. Joel knew he wanted to be a pastor, and he knew that there was a good chance he could get an early out of the Air Force.  We were so sure that this is what God wanted for us, that we even looked at buying a house only a few blocks from the seminary.  When we returned from our visit, Joel went in to the base to apply for early out.  Much to his surprise, he was told that he could not apply since he had "orders" pending.  What orders??  He soon discovered he was being sent to The Philippines.........and thankfully, we could all go with him.  That door closed hard, and we went to the P.I. for two years. Those two years were life changing in so many wonderful ways, and brought into our lives two of our children.  What blessings they are.  Only God.  And seminary?  It was still part of the plan.........but when God opened the door.

Sometimes we stand before a door, and we long for it to be open.  We look around for any sign that we are before the right door, holding the right key, any sign that God is hearing us....and we are met with silence or only hear one word.  Wait.  Waiting for the right door to open at the right time can be excruciating.  We find ourselves in the wilderness, which is just a place we don't want to be.  In this place we need to take our eyes off of our efforts and our desires and put them on Jesus. So, we praise Him in the hallway.

We praise Him in the hallway because we know all His promises in the Bible are yes and amen.  We praise Him because He has a plan for us....for good and not evil.  We praise Him because of what Jesus did for us, what He still does for us.  We praise Him in the hallway until the next door opens at exactly the right time.  Even in the hallway we are not alone.   We learn to rest in the hallway, and while we rest we praise Him!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Take A Breath and Stay Calm


When God sends me a verse 3 or more times, I pay attention.  I have been consistently getting "The Lord will fight for you, just stay calm (or be still) from Exodus 14 for a month now.  The seventeenth one found above arrived Sunday night via Facebook and Start Your Day With Jesus.

When this popped up, I showed it to Joel right away, but instead of feeling at peace about it, we both felt a bit apprehensive.  You, see, # 16 had arrived last Wednesday night, right before an eye appointment scheduled for Thursday morning.  The results of that exam were not encouraging and affirmed my feelings I'd had that this verse was warning me of what was coming.  Yeah.....I know....not good spiritual thinking! Just being honest.

So Sunday night this arrived before my eyes just hours before I would be going in for a mammogram on my left breast to see if the "something new" they found last fall had changed.  We took a deep breath and asked Jesus once again to heal the "something" and that they would not find anything at all.

Monday morning the tech took several images of the left and I went to sit in the waiting room.  She came in 15 minutes later and said the radiologist wanted more images.  Ugh.  Been there before........ So after being pinched and twisted and flattened yet three more times, I ended up back in the waiting room. I told God I was getting really anxious and trying not to be.  I then picked up my phone and went on Facebook.  Immediately the picture below popped up.

I felt a sense of peace come over me.  Here was partly what God was trying to tell me with Exodus 14:14.  Even though He has given us the authority to speak healing....we need Jesus ~He is our Healer.  And the verse underneath?  This was the very first promise God sent my way 5 years ago when I began this healing journey from 27 years of sickness, and I still have it taped to my bathroom mirror. Sunday night I had questioned whether this verse was from God...and where was His "yes and amen" promise, and the next morning here it was in print, on social media.  Only God.  Just be calm.....descended upon me.

A couple minutes later an elderly woman came in and sat down in the room with me.  She asked me if I had had breast cancer.  I said yes and she said, "Well, let me tell you my story......." and proceeded to talk about all the horrors she went through and how it started in her right breast and went into the left.....and how many times she battled it and blah blah blah.  I looked at this woman nearing 80 and my thought was......The enemy is using her to frighten me and take away my peace.  I had no doubt. So I found myself tuning her out, quietly refusing to partner with her story.  I went back to focusing on what God had just brought to my attention.  When they came to get me for the ultrasound, I was very relieved to leave her verbal death march.  

The ultrasound tech was friendly and spent a great deal of time with her wand doing its job. We talked about her job, my history an our sore little toes!    As time went by I wondered what was going on as I knew it was taking longer than normal, but before I could ask she said, "Well, I am not seeing anything in the two areas that I am to look at".  After a few more pictures, she took them to the radiologist and in another 10 minutes she returned to tell me I could go.  The extensive testing had been because it had all disappeared!  It was gone.  Only God!  

While laying on the table I had heard God tell me to pray for this young tech.  I was reluctant, but knew I should step out and do so, so when the test was over I asked her if it would be okay if I prayed for her.  She said, "Yes, it would!"  SO I laid a hand on her and prayed several things that came to mind, ending with her hurting toe.  

What an amazing morning it was.  God was in the midst of it all, fighting for me, revealing to me His peace and presence, and giving me an opportunity to pray for one of His kids.  

I am still studying this verse, but have gathered the whole message of the chapter into the pursuit of all God wants me to learn from His message.  I believe God speaks to all of us in unique and special ways.  How does God speak to you?  How does He reveal His presence to you?  Because He is with us.  When a doctor's report is bad and when it is good.  When we sit in a waiting room looking at a tree filled with pink ribbons for cancer survivors, and when the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy through the words of a hurting woman.  He is with us, fighting for us.  We can lean back, and have Peace present in all our circumstances.  The Lion of Judah fights for us, so take a breath, and stay calm.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Shack

A couple of weeks ago we went to the movie, The Shack, based on the novel of the same name by Canadian author William Paul Young.   William Paul Young spent the first 10 years of his life in New Guinea with his missionary parents.  He wrote this book to write down his own perspectives on God and the inner healing that took place in him as an adult, and more importantly as a gift for his family and a few friends.  It was never intended to be public, but God had other plans.  Joel and I purchased the book several years ago and found it a powerful read.

We headed with several from our community group to meet at the local theater where we relaxed in soft red leather recliners to watch this amazing book unfold on the big screen.  Some people find this story offensive or sacrilegious, and get hung up on the fact that Papa God is portrayed through most of the movie by a black woman, Jesus is middle eastern, and Holy Spirit is an Asian woman named Siri.   Joel and I discussed how easy it is to put God in a box, and how frightening it is for some to see Him out of the comfort zone we create around our faith.  Been there myself.

By our standards we found the theology expressed pretty accurate............and does that statement itself not put God in our own box??  What came across in the movie and the book is how much the Trinity truly loves us.  ALL of them loving ALL of us.  In the movie Papa, Jesus, and Holy express how important having a relationship with us is.  Something fully backed by scripture.  Forgiveness is also a theme that runs throughout, along with knowing we are never alone.

I love how God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit are presented, although in our experience Holy is more than a comforter.  Holy is more of a whirlwind and a dynamo in our lives, but since Holy is a gentleman, He meets us where we are.

I can hardly wait to see this movie again.  There are many powerful statements made that resonate, like the one above, as and I am sure we did not catch everything the first time through.  Next time I will bring a pen and paper and more tissue!  Young wrote this particular book from a place of his own deep pain and losses transformed and healed by our Papa God.  I believe that is why it resonates with so many people.  He tries to answer the question, "If God is so good, why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? "   It is a question we all have pondered.

In fact there are many questions to be pondered within The Shack.  When I first read the book, I was not on the journey I am on now in my faith, so while looking back I'm thinking that God planted some seeds in me several years ago with this book .  Seeds that sprouted and grew slowly within. Opening me up to the "something more" I still look for.   He is good about that. He is just plain good.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Scrabble: A Saving Grace

The Scrabble game never left our dining room table the winter of 2017.   It was not that other things did not get accomplished, but Scrabble was the saving grace we turned to as winter blanketed not only our neighborhood, but our souls.  Scrabble was provided by our Papa God out of love,  to distract and even teach us while we spent 1-3 hours a day focused on creating words from little wood tiles.

With the first snow storm we took out the game and began to play.  Our skills were a bit rusty, but over time we improved at making words and adding up points.  Then sickness came to visit, what we called The Coughing Crud....first I went down and ten days later when I was coming back from the dead Joel got hit hard.  Unusual for my "walking in health" hubby.  We were napping, coughing, groaning, and eating a lot of chicken soup.  A. lot.  That sickness from hell forced us to cancel a trip to our oldest and her family's.  Again.  And to add to it all, I broke my little toe. Really??  Then there was the world, which seemed to be in chaos and still is, our country at the center of it all.  We slowly sank into a funk, missing Arizona weather, weary of politics, conflict, and coughing.  Enough said.

The corner of our dining table became a place of retreat.  A place we gathered when the world made us weary.  It was where, I believe, God called us to play Scrabble........letting us know He had other things, important things, covered.  It became almost sacred to us and a daily ritual we are still practicing right along side our devotions, prayers and praise, and writing.

It is not the first time God has brought our focus onto the simplest of things.  In the early 80's when Joel's life was threatened, involving police, courtrooms, and several years of trusting God with the outcome, a bright orange half-grown kitten showed up in our yard one day and decided to stay. We named him Garfield and he provided great comic relief with his antics.  Soon after we brought home a pup named Jake who gave us even more enjoyment during a tough season for our family.
Looking into your own mirror reflections, I imagine you, too, can find times when God intervened with distractions of His own making.

So, during this time, Scrabble gave us a place to focus as we put effort into winning at a board game, even when it did not feel like we were winning at life. Scrabble also opened our eyes to the lens we were seeing through, the emotions that rose to the surface. The game began to reveal how we were responding to this season of our lives, and it came forth in how we played.  God was using Scrabble to peel back the layers and uncover a few things we needed to adjust.  Like our attitudes.  

Scrabble has become so much a part of our routine, that when we were taking care of our three treasures recently we purchased them the game, so we could all play together. Home now, we again returned to the ritual, not yet ready to let go of the board and tiles.  Eager for Spring, but holding on to winter's distraction.  Scrabble.

Isn't it funny how God can use something as simple as a game of Scrabble to bring grace into our lives.  God used a board game, made sacred by Him, to care for us in a season when winter blanketed the ground and our souls.  He loves us so much and cares deeply about the details of our lives, He weaves His goodness into all we do...including a game or two....or twenty...of Scrabble.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Good Age

As I sit tonight and ponder tomorrow's birthday, I find myself in a place of reflection.  I feel the need, once again, to put pen to paper.  Tomorrow I will turn last year in a decade we thought I would never see.  It was 10 years ago I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease after 23 years of battling a mysterious illness.  Our Lyme practitioners revealed my body was dying.....working at only 22 per cent when I first walked in the office.  They could help me live, but could not heal me. Only God could do that.  I remember I was so ill I laid on the floor of the van to get to the Dr.'s office.  Joel told me after my health returned, that he really did not think I would reach age 60.  But, God.  But God had other plans.

In the past decade I have battled cancer twice when healthy cells went rogue and developed into uterine cancer and then a few years later, breast cancer.  It is gone now.  Lyme is dead and gone also, through a healing released in my body by Jesus, our Healer.  I have a new and better life with all the freedoms I experience now.   I. am. still. here.

Sixty-nine is a good age.  An age I find myself grateful to be.  I. am. still. here.  I also find myself deeply desiring 20 more years of life on this earth.  I look forward to great-grandchildren while treasuring each morning I open my eyes.  I still can battle fear of sickness or death, but I counter it with praise for the day I have.  I can name too many friends who did not reach the age of 69, but I can name more who arrived.

Isn't life amazing?  Aren't our bodies amazing?  And our God?  More amazing still!  Tomorrow the sun comes up on a new year and I will rejoice.  Reaching 69 is a gift I will unwrap and enjoy.  I will walk into it with praise, grateful for every wrinkle, gray hair, cellulite bump, and more.  I. am. still. here.