The Present of HIS Presence

Did you know…?

Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. (John 15:3-4a emphasis mine.)

Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you….” (John 15:16a emphasis mine.)

“…God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27 emphasis mine.)

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,” (Eph 1:13 emphasis mine.)

“…for he [Jesus] has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”” (Heb. 13:5b-6 emphasis mine.)

These are only a small selection of statements and promises God has given to us who believe. They may not make sense in light of what we learn growing up, or currently floats around in our heads at times, but these promises are truth.

God has always known we might have a hard time absorbing and owning these. He told Isaiah over 700 years before Christ:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (IS. 55:8-7, 11 emphasis mine.)

As I sit with all these, even briefly, I am in awe. The creator of the universe, chose me, lives in me, promises to never leave me. Either He is nuts, or I have a really good thing here. Or maybe both. He is crazy in love with me, with us. His ways are not the ways of the world. Though there is one condition, faith in Him, He even gives us the faith, and sustains it.

Accepting these, I feel my self-esteem and confidence rising. I am valuable. I have Christ in me, the hope of Glory! I gain the strength of Heb. 13:6  “So we can confidently say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”” (emphasis mine.)

This is also where I find rest. This place of positional truth never changes. It is my living in the present place, in His presence and He in mine. I abide.

It is a gift!

Have you opened the gift of His presence lately? How do you find His presence?

Past, Present or Future?

Last week I explored how we relate to the future. Now I believe it is only fair that I explore how we relate with the past. I hope to land, again, in the present.

I have a past. We all have a past. Not all of it good, but not all of it bad either. What do I do with my past? There are many things that are wonderful. We all have experiences and memories that are good to look back on. Many of those experiences have formed me into who I am today. Then there are the, well, not so wonderful experiences and memories. Many of those have also been formative in my life. Then there is the category of things better forgotten.

Isaiah said 43:18 “Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness.
and rivers in the desert.”

Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13b “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,”

There comes a time when we have to let go of the things in our past that are keeping us from living in the here and now, moving toward our intended purposes in life. These things need to be released from our grip.

I can try to erase the past and pretend that bad never happened. That only leads to bitterness as the untreated wound festers. I can “puff” the good so I come across better than I really am. That is classic pride, the self-protection that does not deal in truth. The wound still festers. Or, I can hand it all to Jesus and let Him sort it all out, bringing resolution and healing.

I heard Brian Simmons, the author of The Passion Translation of the Bible speak last weekend. One of the things he said, more than once, was: my past died on the cross with Jesus 2,000 years ago. At least all the guilt of it did. Yes, there are lessons to learn from my mistakes and sin. But those things become crazy making if I hang on to them when they rightfully belong to Jesus. They are no longer mine. I believe it is Graham Cooke who says God tells us he wants those things back when we try to hang on to them or continue to relive them. Jesus died on the cross for them. I have been bought with a price. Those things from our past are His and He wants them back! Why do I want them any way? They are not helping me live today.

Generally, I am pretty good about not repeating the less than brilliant things I have done in my past. My hang up lately is pretty much in my head, or is it in my heart? Putting the past behind me is not always easy. Some of what I have experienced, tries to get me to keep me “watching the reruns.” It seems to suck me in and I can go right down the rapids and underwater with my thoughts if I don’t pull myself out quickly.

Swirling rapids

Swirling rapids

About two months ago I was in one of those situations. A memory was triggered and I began to replay and relive it all over again. It was not pretty. Sometimes in the past this type of memory has turned into an asthma attack and all I could do was use my inhaler and try to find ways to calm myself down. This time, however, brought the beginnings of a different kind of response for me. This time, I could feel the pull of the memories beginning and I stopped. I said out loud with calm assurance, “Thank you God that is not my life any more!” As soon as this declaration was out of my mouth, the “cloud” lifted and I was not stressed. I was at peace. I was even joyful! Acknowledging God, trusting and thanking him in a stressful moment broke the pattern of fear and rehearsing my past.

This has worked several times since then. I believe I have victory in that type of circumstance now. But there are other ways that I am still learning to take each thought captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) There are much more subtle thoughts that creep in. I am learning thankfulness, forgiving and releasing people and situations, but I am still working at releasing the “only ifs.” These pull me into the futile exercise of attempting to change the past. The “what ifs” catapult me right past the present into the future. Again, I lose sight of the present reality I can actually deal with. Questioning and over analyzing my responses in the past can send me right down those rapids too. I can lose my strength, creativity and freedom if I do not trust Jesus with my past.

Yes, I need to learn from my past! And I have learned much. I have also learned that there comes a point where I have to choose to forget the past. I do so asking Abba to gently remind me, in my moment of need, of the lessons I can put to use now, in the present. I am here to live today. This moment is where life happens. There is NOTHING I can do to change the past. My past has helped to make me the woman I am today. I am very grateful to God for all the things I have learned through the easy and the hard lessons.

My prayer is that we can all let the work of the Cross have its full effect in our lives. Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I want to walk in the fullness of the freedom that Jesus came to give me…today.

What keeps replaying for you? Can you release it to Jesus?

Remember God’s promise, “Behold, I am doing a new thing!” Thank you for joining me on this journey.

Where Am I Living?

“Worry never robs tomorrow of it’s sorrow; it only saps today of it’s strength.” – A.J.Cronin

This really got me thinking about where I live. What are my default settings in my mind when something unpleasant happens? Do I live in the future, that I honestly have zero control over? Do I live in the past, that I can not change? Or am I living in the present where my choices are real and actually make a difference for my future?

When I was 17 I took a set of tests to help discover my natural aptitudes. One strength I discovered I have is something called “Foresight.” I am able to see several steps down the road, so to speak. I can think and consider consequences of my actions, and of others. I like to plan ahead and I am a pretty good planner when need be. Though I do not fit into the “Visionary” level of foresight, I hang in well with those who are visionaries and can help them implement those visions.

I come from a line of people with foresight. My parents wanted me to know, at age 17, what my natural strengths and weaknesses are so I would not waste time being frustrated on things I would never be good at. I think that is proof enough. I am most grateful because I also received tips and tools to help me manage or over come some of my weaknesses.

I also tested high in “ideaforia.” All that means is I have a lot of ideas. I was immediately cautioned rather strongly that just because I have lots of ideas, does not mean all of them are good ideas. =}

Now, having foresight and lots of ideas has the potential to be really good and helpful. But there is a dark flip-side to these gifts: worry, anxiety and fear. If I let myself, I can project out all sorts of scenarios that in reality, have little or nothing to do with how circumstances will play out or how the other actors in my scenario will act. I have no control over others, only me. So, it is possible to work myself up into anxiety and fear, for no good reason.

When I allow that to happen I miss out on today. Worry and fear can suck me dry of not just strength, but also of creativity, joy, faith, hope and most importantly, love.

I have come a very long way yet I have not mastered the art of living in the moment. I have to remember that God gave me the gifts of foresight and ideas. I am called to contribute constructively to my life, family and work with these attributes. I am not expected to ignore the possible negatives. Those possibilities are part of planning effectively. I lived through the Coup d’Etat in Mali in 1991. It is wise to have contingency plans.

There are still those occasional times when I feel the confusion setting in, when I get too many steps out front into the unknown…. If I go there without the hope and faith that God promises to work all things together for good, that is the time I need to reel myself back to the present moment. Take a breath. Remember the promises of God. Tuck myself back in under the shadow of Abba’s wing. I worship the only one who is able to keep all His promises.

I don’t run away. I rest in the many promises and truths my loving Creator has made to me, and to you. In those moments, peace is restored. John 14:27 promises, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

What are you tempted to worry about or are afraid of? Where are you living? How do you get back to the present?

Which Way to Wisdom?

I am part of a small prayer ministry called Wisdom Way. The ministry is setting up a web page and is asking me to write something short about my self to post as one of its members. Most of the others have, as requested, very short “blurbs.” My initial pass was also very short:

“Andrea Van Boven Madden: Believes every true follower of Jesus is intended to be a conduit for God’s will to be done on earth. Prayer, a two-way conversation with our creator, is the initiation point for this to happen. Jesus teaches us to pray “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10) Her heart is to pray, bringing those who hunger for truth and righteousness together to pray for God’s will to be accomplished and to help deepen the prayer lives of any who desire to go deeper in relationship with our loving heavenly Father.”

When I ran it by Wendy, one of my wise and trusted friends. She suggested strongly that I was “selling my self short.” For those who know me, this blurb is OK…. but for those who do not, there is no understanding of the wealth of experience and expertise behind that short blurb.

The ensuing conversation began with why I chose to be so “vague,” neglecting to mention my experience and qualifications. After all, this is a site not only to talk about Wisdom Way, but to allow ministry partners to financially support those of us who are part of the ministry. So subtlety is not the goal. Communicating clearly my heart, passion and qualifications to do what I am called to do, is the goal. In an attempt to be humble, this first attempt missed giving people who do not yet know me, that opportunity to know my experience, qualifications and my calling to WIsdom Way.

True humility is striking the balance between knowing that apart from God I can do nothing, but with God all things are possible. Having an honest assessment of who I am as a created being with all my human short comings, balanced with the truth that In Christ I am a new creation, a joint heir with Christ as a priest and king in His kingdom who is called to pray His will into existence on this earth.

So subsequent passes aimed for that, and lead to this:

“Andrea is a Prayer Ministry Consultant trained in several facets and models of prayer. Through modeling, teaching and training, she helps all sorts of churches, ministries and individuals learn how to protect, support and lead their ministries by depending on God in prayer.

Andrea has been in vocational ministry for 34 years, the first 13 of those as a missionary in Africa. She has ministered on five continents and has a Masters in Church History from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Before joining Wisdom way Andrea was the Director of Prayer Initiatives for the rapidly growing International Leadership Foundation where she established and trained prayer networks in the US and Africa to support the ministry that seeks societal transformation across the African continent.

Locally in Massachusetts, she served as lead intercessor for Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church in Danvers, MA as the church was being planted and established. At the same time she was lead intercessor for the Anglican Diocese of New England.

Presently, she is involved in several local, regional and national prayer initiatives. Andrea helps coordinate the 10 Days of Prayer on the North Shore of Boston with Jonathan Friz, and others. Andrea has a special place in her heart for training intercessors in healing prayer and warfare prayer ministries to follow God’s leading in ushering in His kingdom here on earth, aspiring to never lose sight of our need to go ever deeper in relationship with our loving heavenly Father.”

So there you have it. A little more about me an my desire to reflect our multifaceted God.

Too bold? Hopefully balanced! What do you think?

How would you briefly describe your life and calling to strangers?

Merry 12 days of Christmas and Happy New Year!

December got away from me this year.

I had a blessed Christmas in Florida with my mom, brother and grown children. It was full, though it did not start with a lot of merriment. Mom was in and out to the hospital, but we got her health squared away before the kids showed up on the 21st. Then the fun began.

Me, Kathryn, Jim, Carolyn & Alex

Me, Kathryn, Jim, Carolyn & Alex

Because there were many “extracurricular” activities this Advent, I am particularly happy to be Anglican this year. I came back to Massachusetts on the 28th and attended my home church of Christ the Redeemer on Sunday the 29th. Christmas had not disappeared! As a matter of fact, it was just hitting stride. It was the 4th day of Christmas and the first Sunday of Christmas! Instead of the wearied “Boy am I glad Christmas is over” that I had heard many times after the 25th, everyone was greeting each other with “Merry Christmas!”

So in honor of Christmastide, the 12 days in the liturgical calendar between Christmas day and Epiphany, the arrival of the Magi to Bethlehem, I am keeping my tiny little tree lit next to my fireplace until the 5th. With a foot of snow due in the next 36 hours I will nestle in, when not shoveling, and read by the gentle lights. I will have time alone to reflect on the coming of Christ as a helpless baby. The time that was elusive before the 25th this… well last year, now.20140101_194448I am not a fan of New Years resolutions. But I do believe in planning. During this Christmastide I intend to take some time to reflect on 2013 and to plan for 2014. One thing I am already clear on is a writing project I believe firmly God has placed before me. More on that later.

I hope and pray the Lord will grant you peace of mind and grace to help you flow through 2014 in the power and love of God. May He enable you to rest in Him and from that place of rest allow Him to do more through and for you than you can ask or imagine…because He is that kind of God!

To God be the Glory!