You Tell The Story

Most of you have probably heard the joke about a children’s Sunday School teacher asking the children, “What is furry, with four legs, as swishing tail and loves nuts?” The young ones all look around at each other hoping someone else will answer. Finally, a little girl answers the teacher, “The answer’s gotta be Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel.” Well, today’s blog let’s you look at some photos so you can tell the story. And no, the answer is not Jesus. (Though Jesus might be found at some level in our stories.)

Please take a few minutes with each photo, or take time with one today then another later…. I chose animal pictures to give a little “personality.” There is a bird feeder behind my home that backs up to woods. I see a lot of wild life every day. It is therapeutic and I have plenty of  “wild kingdom” stories to tell. (I’m showing my age, unless you remember Wild Kingdom too.) I think we can agree that nature has a lot of lessons to teach us, at the very least because it is part of creation.

What do you see beyond the obvious? Where does your mind go? How does it make you feel? What does that tell you about yourself? What might the photo tell you about Creation, and the Creator?

For the more easily creative and artistic people it might be easy to use the image to create a story. Others might be reminded of something from their own experience, a dream or a wish.

What are your eyes drawn to in any of the images? Take a moment to wonder why you are drawn to that part. Pray. Ask first for a sanctified imagination, then talk with our Creator and ask whatever comes to mind. Then be still for a bit to listen for that still small voice.

Is there one of these you prefer over another? Why? Of course there is no right or wrong answer, but maybe you can learn a little more about yourself and the one who made us in the process of enjoying the beauty and diversity.

I hope this exercise of letting you tell the story this time is a blessing even if it is possibly a little more work than I usually give. My prayer is that something in one of these images unlocks some hidden treasure for you. I hope you will respond to let me know how my prayer is answered!

“You Are The God Who Sees Me” – Hagar

Genesis 16:13

I suspect most people go through life not truly understanding that the God of all creation sees them. I know I did not grasp the truth that God sees me for a long time. Maybe I did a little, but the concept has grown with time and experience. There are still moments when I have an experience of the love of God, the God who sees me, and the truth sinks in a little deeper.

Hagar, in Genesis 16, ran away from a difficult situation. She couldn’t stand being mistreated by Sarah who she served. Sarah gave Hagar to her husband Abraham to fulfill a promise from God to have a son. Problem was, they were impatient and did not see the full plan, so they tried to do it their own way. Hagar became pregnant, and Sarah became jealous. In her fear and anger Sarah began to treat Hagar badly.

God appeared to Hagar in the desert to guide and bless her. That is when she understood “You are the God who sees me.” That phrase also became the name of the water well where they met.

When I say, “sees me,” I mean Abba knows me, just like He knew Hagar. I am a friend, not because of anything I have done, but because I am His created and chosen one, just like you are. I am one Christ came to reconcile to himself. So are you. Jesus said: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” John 15:16

Wow! God knows me and you, chose me and you, hears and answers my prayers and yours, and sees me and you!O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”Psalm 139:1-4

Abba, help us to slow down so we can see you at work in and around us. Thank you for seeing Hagar. Thank you for seeing and knowing each one of us intimately. Help us to know that when you see us, you see Christ righteousness. You see the ones you chose to bear your fruit. May we walk in ever-increasing faith and intimacy with you! Amen

Thanksgiving 2017

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love to eat and food is central to the day. I also love to give thanks for the abundant blessings I have. Some may want to debate the origins of our blessings, but I really appreciate king David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29. He was near the end of his life and his son Solomon was going to build the Temple for the Lord that David dreamed of. It is not just a prayer of thanks, it is a prayer of orientation. One that sets his, and consequently our, priorities aimed directly at the Creator of all things.

David’s Prayer

10David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,

“Praise be to you, Lord,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.

14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand….”

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Ps 19:1

Do you see how David directs all his thanks and adoration to the Creator? And what was the result? “But who am I, and who are my people…?” Compared to the Almighty we are nothing, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Our Creator has redeemed us fully and given us voices to thank Him for every breath we take.

I invite you to join me in taking a few minutes to jot down a few thoughts of thanksgiving. Think especially about how God is the author of all. Give thanks for life, the beauty of nature or whatever comes to you. And as we sit down to eat on Thanksgiving Day with family, friends or a turkey sandwich alone, remember the promise, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13

A Litany Of The Person

– Anonymous Trappist Monk

A litany is a call and response prayer, and it can also be a long list. You may have heard of a litany of complaints. The litany I bring you today is a long list of how our Creator sees us. I also believe it is how our Creator wants us to see ourselves and others around us.

I encourage you to not race through it. Take some time to read it out loud, slowly. Maybe even do it more than once. Notice how you react to the different lines. Does it fit? Does it feel awkward or even like a lie? Maybe it helps you to breathe easier. When a line strikes you one way or the other, pause and ask Abba about it.

My prayer is for it to sink in. Abba, You are a multifaceted God and you have also made us in your image. There are many facets of truth here. Show us where and how you want each one of us to engage with you. Thank you for the invitation to know ourselves better. Thank you that this will also help us to know you better. May each person who reads this come away with the specific blessing they need for today. Amen

A Litany of the Person

– Anonymous Trappist Monk

 

image of God

born of God’s breath

vessel of divine Love

after his likeness

dwelling of God

capacity for the infinite

eternally known

chosen of God

home of the Infinite Majesty

abiding in the Son

called from eternity

life in the Lord

temple of the Holy Spirit

branch of Christ

receptacle of the Most High

wellspring of Living Water

heir of the kingdom

the glory of God

abode of the Trinity.

God sings this litany

eternally in his Word.

This is who you are.

Source: (from the Abbey of Gethsemani)

I Can Never Get Away From Your Presence!

Psalm 139 tells us a lot about ourselves, and about our Creator. When I was preparing to move to Africa in 1980, I came across Psalm 139 and was struck by many things, but perhaps most of all by this declaration by the psalmist to God: I can never get away from your presence!” Honestly, I was a tiny bit fearful as a young twenty something to trust it would all be OK. On the flip side, I was excited to test out some of these promises. [emphasis mine]

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

Darkness and light are the same to you.

A few decades later and well over a million airline miles, I can confidently say these promises are true!

Though I have not been to Heaven or the grave, verse 8 reminds me how my son literally drowned in a half bucket of mop water at 6 months old and miraculously survived to thrive. It was not pleasant or easy, but I found out what it meant to be buoyed up by the prayers of others. I maintained a deep sense if the presence of God through it all.

From verse 9, I have flown on the wings of the morning many times over the years. Watching the sun rise from 35,000 feet is beautiful. I have watched the sun set just before sunset, then taken off to see it “rise” again. We chase it west a while, but it is faster than we are so it sets a second time. These opportunities help me experience the wonder of our Creator and His creation. He is there.

I started to count the oceans I’ve dwelt by, if even for a few days, but it’s easier to say I have found the presence of God on five continents. Not to say anything about me, but rather of our Makers ability to meet needs and hear prayers from any corner of the planet.

What about the darkness in verses 11 & 12? My photo is a feeble attempt to capture the idea that regardless of our  interpretation of our situation. There is another reality than the one we see with our eyes. The light from the one who both imagined and created light by saying, “let there be light, and there was light” is able to able to see us in the dark and is with us in the dark. This is because it is never really as dark as we might think it is.

How do we experience the presence of God in our “darkness?” We ask and we look. It is amazing what we can ‘see’ when begin to ask to see it, then look for it. Since I discovered these verses decades ago, I have put them to the test many times. Through many events that initially felt dark and overwhelming, when I slowed down to look and listen, I can safely say I have never been disappointed.

What About The Abundant Life?

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."-Jesus

Why are so many people struggling to experience the abundant life Jesus promises? 

I am fortunate to have opportunities to pray with and for people several times a week, especially if I am in tune with the Holy Spirit and I obey the nudges. A theme I have noticed a lot lately is found in John 10:10. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” 

As followers of Jesus we often prefer to emphasize the good stuff. Too often when we do that, we neglect the flip side of the good. What do I mean? More times than not, there is a cost to the good. There is also opposition to the good.

Recently, John 10:10 has come to mind often when I pray for people. First, I hear about the abundant life, then I sense the need to consider the context. The abundant life is a popular promise, that was given in the context of opposition. Somehow we tend to forget there is an enemy of our souls. One of his names is Thief.” Jesus tells us, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” This Evil One works overtime to do anything to discourage us from following Jesus. His tactics are exactly as Jesus said: to steal, kill and destroy, not only material things, but joy, peace, hopes and dreams as well.

Before we go any farther, I am not saying the enemy is the only source of our misfortunes and lack of peace. There are also a fantastic array of temptations in the world, such as money and various forms of pleasure we might choose to rank above our love for our Creator and for our fellow humans. We call these temptations the “World.”

We also have free will to choose what we prioritize and focus on. Our choices definitely play a role in how abundant our life is. Who and what we pay most attention to, influences our choices. We call this the “Flesh.”

When I consider the suffering of people in the recent natural disasters my heart sinks. How one reacts to different forms of suffering that come our way, also affect our abundant life. Paul teaches us to, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thes. 5:18 [emphasis mine]

I believe our ability to thank and worship our Creator, in the middle of any kind of circumstance is key to living the abundant life… because it speaks of our interior lives. If our focus is on the goodness of the One who made us, the Good Shepherd as Jesus calls himself in John 10, then our satisfaction is not subject to situations and circumstances. We do not always have control over or circumstances. We do have control over ourselves and how we react.

What about the abundant life? I am not sure there is a clear-cut equation to living the abundant life. Accepting the love of our Creator offered to us through Jesus is, however, essential. Understanding that an abundant life is about loving God and the people around, us helps us to receive the love of God. “We love because he first loved us.” (1John 4:19) Being aware that the World, the Flesh and the Evil One all conspire against us is also a big help. But we have these promises to help keep us true:

Romans 8:37 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, try to not get distracted from the love of God. But when you do, and we all do, let Abba pick you up. Next, agree with Him about where you went awry, choose to not continue that way, accept His forgiveness and move along in joy and the abundant life. If you have been out of sync for a while, find a fellow believer, or several, to walk with you in rediscovering the Love of God.

Abba,

Thank you for promising us an abundant life. Teach us how to receive your love, so freely offered. Help us to rest in the strength of your promises. And when we lose our focus on your love for us and others, for whatever reason, thank you in advance for bringing us back gently. Thank you that nothing can separate us from your perfect love! Amen

 

 

Holy Spirit on the Move

This month of October I have spent each weekend so far, involved at varying levels in events calling for the Holy Spirit to act. The result for me has been taking advantage of open doors to love people. Here are just a few examples from this week:

  • I helped an elderly Jewish woman at the hospital, who let me pray for her in the name of Jesus. I left her with a smile on her face, an understanding of Jesus as Messiah she had never heard before and she knows how to talk with God. (Please pray she does. The meaning of her name is “born again”)
  • I have seen positive answers to prayer for a friend who has had difficulty sleeping.

    This is not the friend, but I hope you get the idea ;-}

  • A homeless man at church needed a ride to get his medications. On the way back, we talked about God’s total forgiveness. Later in the day when I asked him what he thought about my earlier comment about how Jesus has paid for every bad he has ever done, he paused, and as it clicked in his head and heart, a big smile came over his face. A bit more prayer and he looked like a different man. Is his life fixed? I have not seen him, but I suspect not. I do, however, believe he is several steps farther along in a much better direction…aimed at Jesus.
  • At a meeting I help lead, one of the other leaders needed some love and prayer. Before the students arrived I ministered to her and she was reassured of God’s power and love for her. That allowed her to pass that along to her women that night.
  • Another friend wanted to change something in her life that has nagged her. In prayer she was not able to breakthrough on her own. We dealt with it together in a minute or two and she instantly knew she was free.

In some ways this is not unusual for me and in other ways it is exceptional. What is the difference?

The first difference is the power of the Holy Spirit has more space in my life. I have asked for it and Abba is always happy to answer that request. Granted, I had to confess and repent of a few things that were taking up space the Holy Spirit wanted to use. Holy Spirit gave me direction and insight to pray and help.

Second is my obedience. Instead of being shy, an overly nice way to say disobedient to Holy Spirit nudges, I stepped out in faith and helped some strangers, and some friends. The result is Abba used me to help others.

If you know me, I trust you know I am not sharing these stories to make me look good. I share these to make the Holy Spirit look good.

I am also hoping you too will ask Abba for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit.  We do leak after all. Then the next time you sense the Holy Spirit nudge you to say something kind to a stranger, or whatever it is for you to do, you will obey. I promise you the benefits and blessings for both you and whomever you touch are eternal, when you step out in faith.

Will you ask and obey?

Metamorphosis

As I walked my dog this week I could not miss the bright yellow caterpillar in my path. Knowing about metamorphosis, I wondered what it would become. I learned it turns into a moth that has intricate shades of gray, called an American Dagger moth.

Perhaps the moth is not as impressive to look at as a colorful butterfly, nevertheless, the process of metamorphosis is amazing! One living thing changes into a very different kind of living thing, in this case from a crawly creature to a flying one. The way it lives and moves is dramatically different that it was before it changed.

An American Dagger moth caterpillar along my path.

A synonym for metamorphosis is transformation.

I have thought about spiritual transformation lately and I see how closely it resembles the metamorphosis of a crawling caterpillar to a flying moth or butterfly. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul explains. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image [of Christ] from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” As we learn the word of God, gazing on the nature of Jesus, the ways of God’s Spirit and spend time with mature followers of Jesus, we go ‘from one degree of glory to another,’ and morph into who our Creator intends us to become.

In Galatians 2:20 Paul tells us,I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” He learned to turn himself over to the will of God.

An adult American Dagger moth, [The moth image was originally posted to Flickr by Wildreturn]

Our metamorphosis is both a moment in time and a process. When we accept the Love of God through the loving sacrifice of Jesus, we are crucified with Christ and are instantly morphed, or sometimes the word translated is used, into the Kingdom of God. The first unique life is still present, but now in a new and different presentation. We do not know or understand all it means at first. That process of discovery we go through is how we mature.
I am not the same person I was at 16 when I began to walk with Jesus. Like any baby I crawled then fell down a lot those first few years. Eventually I learned to “fly like the moth,” as I matured in the Kingdom of God. The experience and process of walking by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit is the transformation, or metamorphosis process.

 

Come Help Change the World!

I think I’ve always wanted to change the world for the better. Initially I had limits on how that might look. When I was a kid I swore I would never be a teacher. Teachers have to deal with unruly kids and long hours for relatively little pay. I saw what I put my teachers through and decided there was no way I wanted to take that from other people’s kids!

When I became a follower of Jesus, I said I would never be a missionary in Africa. I was a sorority girl from a good family. And though I was a Tomboy, enjoying sports and camping….I was convinced that being a missionary in Africa was NOT God’s will for my life. I was convinced I would have more impact by making a stand in my own area of influence and culture….

37 years ago the tag line for Campus Crusade for Christ [now CRU] was “Come Help Change the World!” What 22-year-old just out of university does not want to make a difference in the world? We all hunger and thirst for significance. We all want to feel like we have contributed to making life better for us and for others.

I signed up!

Me, circa 1982

Even before I signed up with CRU I knew I was going to Africa. God met me at the CRU Christmas conference in Chicago the December of 1979. I literally heard bells ringing, that no one else heard, when an announcement was made for a recruiting meeting. I attended the meeting and God deeply impressed on my spirit that I was to apply to go to Africa. This was really odd because I was taught that emotions and experiences were the caboose on the train of faith. They were not essential. I have since learned that the caboose is, however, a part of the train=}

Within months I was in cross cultural training to go teach school in Nigeria, West Africa. Next I moved to Côte d’Ivoire, putting all my years of classroom French to practical use, or at least beginning to. Then I spent years in Senegal and Mali with a month in the Philippines in 1991. It was there in the Philippines I began to connect deeply with my passion for prayer.

My life has moved a long way from there. There have been twists and turns I did not anticipate. God has remained the same and He is making me into His image, sometimes in spite of myself.

I still find ways to “Come help Change the World!” I mostly work from my base in Massachusetts at this phase of life. But that’s the awesome thing about prayer. We can literally affect lives and events anywhere through prayer.

Technology also allows us to have an impact beyond our four walls. I receive prayer requests from all over the world. I use Skype and Face time to have audio and even face to face conversations and prayer with people in Europe, East Asia, Africa.

And of course there are our neighbors, co-workers and shop keepers and others we see regularly. Do my interactions go beyond paying for my purchases and trivial greetings?

Last weekend at Restore & Revive I was delighted to listen to every plenary speaker and several workshops emphasize the need for the power of the Holy Spirit for Evangelism. The event did take place at D.L. Moody’s home town and campus. He is one who clearly depended on the love and power of the Holy Spirit to win people to Jesus.

In a week or so the different sessions will be linked to the Restore & Revive site. Also God.tv will also be showing at least some of it in the near future. I hope you are able to watch and listen, and I pray you are restored and revived to come help change the world!

The Glory That Is To Be Revealed To Us

This phrase from Roman’s 8:18 jumped out to me a while ago and again recently, “The Glory That Is To Be Revealed To Us.” Let me give you a fuller context. [ Italics mine]

16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. PS 19:1

I cannot speak for you, but in my experience most people are like me. We have spent much of our lives avoiding suffering. Interestingly, suffering is a requirement to join in the glory. I have heard sermons on how suffering for our faith is all that counts, suffering consequences for being stupid doesn’t. Eh…maybe. But as I have learned to embrace pain from physical suffering, emotional suffering, and even from natural consequences, by turning it over to Abba, I learn to yield to Abba. I allow unrefined bits of me to go to the cross.

So what about the glory? (Or: get me off this suffering talk please.)

As more unrefined bits leave me and go to the cross, I am transformed from glory to glory. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18)

This is the eve of Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement.  On this side of the cross, we have a perspective of Hope. When Jesus died on the cross, he paid for ALL our sin. That is complete atonement only our Creator is able to provide. The result is great hope. It gives us assurance that the refining is worth it.

As we begin the Jewish year 5778, the year of open doors, may we position ourselves to expect the glory of God in us and around us. May we have eyes to see and ears to hear what Creator is doing. It requires seeing through the surface, the anger so prevalent in every quarter these days. Abba is calling the Church Universal to rise up in LOVE. Repent of our judgments and lovelessness. We are called to see the individuals who are hurting, suffering and extend a loving had. “But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” [emphasis mine.]

Abba has and is pouring his love into us through the perfect atonement. May we receive it fully,  then allow it to over-flow to those around it who so desperately need it! When that happens, we indeed see the glory of God revealed!