the pool of bethesda

So I know I was going to write more about praying like Elijah, but as previously stated, things may change under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and so they have.  This morning as I was praying, I heard a silent whisper, an invisible voice…point me to a place, a pool, a gate, and a choice…

Yes, that rhymes, and yes, I wanted to keep going with it in true poetic form, but for now I’ll write about learning to hear God through prayer and how I knew it was His voice when I heard the silent whisper,

“the pools of bethesda.”

As Christians, Christ followers, people who have confessed Jesus as Lord of their lives and have been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit after hearing and believing the good news, have an incredible gift.  Simple, yet profound and often drowned out by the deceptive voices of the world disguised in busyness and worthy works…many of us have heart-breakingly forgotten,

we can actually hear God’s voice…

“My sheep hear my voice and they follow Me…” John 10:27.

“For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:13.

I could go on with other supporting scriptures and will as long as these words keep showing up on this screen following that voice…

If you are a Christian, then you have heard God’s voice.  You heard it when you first came to Him, through a message, a friend stepping out of their box and fearlessly sharing Jesus with you, His unchanging, soul and spirit dividing, Holy Spirit inspired Word you read, a song, a dream, a silent nudge, a scripture brought to mind, a following your heart, if you will, in order to bless someone.  These are but a few ways God speaks to his beloved kids.  It is the One with whom we were sealed, the gift Jesus promised His followers at the last supper, the One who baptizes with water and fire, the One who empowers, equips, testifies to Jesus, and makes things weird and wonderful all at the same time.  He is the third person of the Trinity,

and He is Holy Spirit.

and so it goes…along a silent whisper in a time of expectant prayer, that the words, the pool of bethesda showed up.  Not only did they show up, but they escorted in with them tears…and a deep soulish cry,

teach me! show me your glory as much as this frame can bear! Come in power and glory more than I have seen! 

And a heart that is so full, yet yearns for more, to see and take God at His Word, fumbles through pages to find and be found,

at the pool of bethesda.

And somehow this is beautifully woven, tangled, frayed and stretched into praying like Elijah.  Elijah knew God’s voice.  Elijah prayed with fervency and expectancy.  Elijah experienced fire from heaven.  Elijah never limited God. But the man at the pool of bethesda had a vastly different perspective than Elijah.  Did he believe in God?  Just by reading the passage, it is clear he did.  He had seen with his own eyes an angel from heaven appear again and again healing many others who were able to get themselves into the pool.

Don’t miss that…

Who were able to get themselves into the pool…

You see, sometimes we just can’t get ourselves there… in Elijah’s state of faith…yet Jesus lovingly and powerfully shows up just when we think He has touched everyone else but us!

So this morning, as I met with my Lord in the stillness away from distractions and plans of the day, I simply asked,

Lord, speak, grant me the spirit of prophetic revelation, teach me…”

and the answer droned in silence, yet dripping with the fragrance of His anointing oils, stirred my heart like that of the pool of bethesda.

Maybe its because I am praying hard for many to be healed right now.  Maybe it’s because there was fresh insight to be discovered at this old passage I have read over many times and never really understood.

Yet both are being strengthened in a cord tightly woven…

Jesus does speak.

and when He speaks, be joyfully expectant that He is moving…stirring up forgotten stagnant pools, 

looking on impossible situations pillared by faith with those that won’t limit Him…

for His whisper prepares the tender soil that will bring forth an abundance of what He is about to do!

For those who pray like Elijah,

and those who long to dip but their toes in the pool of bethesda...

Oh Holy Spirit, come in power and reveal Jesus to us at the pool of bethesda as we read, believe, and wait expectantly.

Please read John 5:1-24.

Found, loved, held,

Trish

 

the juniper tree

Today I am in a place of supernatural peace while I wait silently on the Lord to answer me.  This supernatural peace is like no other feeling.  Though there are many things going on in my life that would, in the natural sense, be “worrisome,” I am virtually worry-free.  My mind and my body appear laden with some sort of a peace like barrier that is supernaturally keeping anxiety, fear, and worry out, while I stay bathed in a constant overflow of heaven’s sweet, honey-coated peace.  In other words, I couldn’t get worked up if I tried today.  What I want you all to know is that my life is not ‘”problem-free.”  If that were the case, my prayer list would not be as lengthy as it is.  But that is the beauty of having a prayer list…it is a list of things you essentially have no control over that you lay before the Lord and believe and trust that He will provide, remove, heal, take care of, send help and answer each and every single dot and tittle you have written down.  So here I am, with my list before the Lord and a peace that He has, in fact, answered each request.  All His promises are yes and amen and so I pray, believe, and continue on with the day stretched before me by His unseen providential hand, in a peace that cannot be described in human language.

Lately the Lord has been teaching me to pray like Elijah.  To have faith like Elijah.  To be righteous like Elijah.  Yes, Elijah the prophet who saw many miracles at that providential hand of God.  Yes, Elijah, the mighty man of God who raised a widow’s dead son back to life, saw her jar of oil and flour remain filled throughout a 3 year drought, called fire down from heaven to consume a soaked sacrifice on a sopping wet altar in a “match of the gods,” shut up the heavens, opened the heavens, was caught up in a heavenly chariot his assistant bore witness to as he was escorted from this earth on the winds of fiery messengers… yet doubted, grew weary,  complained, prayed fervently, was filled with sarcasm at times, ran for his life, listened for God’s whisper in a cave, was fed by ravens, was fed by angels when he was too exhausted to go another step having been chased by a wicked queen,

and collapsed, begging to die,

under a juniper tree.

Hmmm…why the juniper tree?  Is there significance to why God would have the juniper tree recorded a handful of times throughout scripture?

Yes.  You see, the juniper tree is a shorter, shrubbery type bush, rather than an actual tree…it grows in extreme conditions in the desert heat and frigid night-time temperatures.  It provides barely enough shade for desert dwellers, or on-the-run prophets to find relief from the blazing sun, yet it does provide relief.  It’s wood is known to provide the best coal that radiates the most intense heat, and the reason for this is…

because of the extreme conditions it is grown in…

It also, in full bloom, can be seen from afar as its fragrant blooms remind the observing eye of its Creator who brings forth beauty from the barren…fruit from the forsaken…

The Juniper tree is a picture of Isaiah’s furnace of affliction, Job’s gold after being tested, Elijah’s respite and refreshment for his next assignment.  For when the Juniper tree reaches maturity it then and only then has reached its goal where it can burn the brightest giving off more heat than any other wood.

So why did God tell me to pray like Elijah?  To have the faith of Elijah? Well, for one He first told this to James, the brother of Christ, to pass on to us:

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.  Is anyone cheerful?  Let him sing praise.  Is anyone among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, an let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the  name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.  And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of the righteous has great power as it is working.  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.  Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” James 5:13-18.

Elijah had a nature like ours.

like ours…

Elijah, Job and David all begged to die…

they all complained…

felt afraid…

two of the three ran for their lives…

wanted to throw in the towel…

give up.

And just in the nick of time…after collapsing under the weight of sheer exhaustion, dehydration, and despair of human spirit,

God provides the shade of a juniper tree, sends an angel to provide a jar of water, and a cake of bread,

baked on a hot desert stone, not once but twice…

to revive the heart of a prophet to believe once again….

That there is a cloud beginning to swell…

I encourage you to read 1st Kings 18:41-19:8.  I mean, PLEASE, read this passage, then turn to James 5 and read.  Ask the Holy Spirit to grant the eyes of your heart enlightenment and insight and to give you the faith of his beloved prophet.

then…

Pray your heart out…and check again, and again,

and again, and again….

until it POURS!

 

Next week I plan to elaborate more on James 5 so stay tuned!!

held in a coating of heaven’s honey-sweet peace, known intimately by Him,

trish

 

The last ditch prayer…

In my previous blog, I wrote about prayer essentially being an ongoing beautiful conversation with our ever-loving, ever-interested, ever-wooing, ever-listening Father who delights in hearing the multi-faceted expressions of our hearts.  That in many ways we can compare it to the beauty of art.  A dream being birthed in an artist’s heart that colorfully and wildly dances upon a canvas with its unique magnetic force drawing the observer into its womb of brokenness and beauty.  Or a poem being strung together over the deep caverns of a an introvert’s mind as she pieces together anguish and joy, tragedy and triumph, and weaves words in and out of melodious sonnets.

And so we pray…

the poetry of our hearts.

And since we are formed out of earth’s clay by sacred hands…

equipped with all of heaven’s power, yet gentle and intricate, tender and sheltering and breathed into by the very breath of God, the one who mapped out the constellations,

firestarter of the stars,

yet with longing created us in His own image to be in relationship with Him, we then respond as any child would, in total trust, when we pray.  Even when the prayer is

our last ditch prayer.

Today I want to share a story.  Not because I had planned to share this story with you, but through prayer and having learned to wait on and listen for the response of the Holy Spirit, the story today was not my idea, (in fact, this particular story never entered my mind while thinking about this series).  This is the way of the Holy Spirit;

Pray.  listen.  do.

Steven came to me through a mutual friend nearly 16 years ago.  I was cleaning a home for someone and our mutual friend came to visit me while I scrubbed and polished, vacuumed and dusted.  I wasn’t prepared for him to bring along Steven, but the funny thing is, we can feel totally unprepared, yet be unkowingly and powerfully equipped when we operate out of an ongoing vibrant relationship with Jesus.

When I first laid eyes on 19 year old Steven, I have to admit, I silently cried for help! My prayer went something like this,

HELP! What do you expect me to do with this kid?”  The answer went something like this…like it always does, “What do you EXPECT me to do?”  You see, if our expectations are fixed on God and not ourselves, well then…

we can EXPECT great things.  And so it was with Steven.  

Prayers of half-hearted expectancy began to literally be pulled by an unseen hand from the depths of my heart where helplessness and speechlessness marry and clumsily dance their way out until the choreographer takes the weight and leads home His perfect words…perfect will.

Steven weighed all of about 110 pounds wringing wet.  He was strung out, but not yet “hung out” to dry, if you know what I mean.  But God had purposefully led Steven to me for some of the wringing and the twisting, the wrestling and the waiting through acceptance, love and prayer.  In all honesty, Steven was one of the sorriest human beings I had ever laid eyes on, and far beyond my scope of helping professionaly.  But God wasn’t asking for professional help, He was simply asking for a willing heart.

A believing heart.  A childlike heart.  

I do not know until this day all of Steven’s history.  What I do know is that he was as broken as anyone could be.  Addiction had ravaged his heart, mind and body.  He was desperate for more.  More drugs. More love. A family. A home.  His eyes screamed it, through a facade of humor.  And oh, was Steven funny.  Instantly likeable…even loveable.  He was wildly colorful and there was NO escaping the absolute set-in-stone in heaven, fact that this was a divine appointment.  I invited him into my home, though advised not to because he may steal medications or go through my cabinets.  Oddly, I didn’t seem to care whether he did or not.

All I had to offer was my friendship, prayer, and my beloved bible.

We became fast friends and I invited Steven to church.  Steven willingly came a handful of times before he disappeared, but one Sunday still replays in my mind as one of the most beautiful memories I will ever relive.  It was during worship where I looked down my row at Steven a few seats down sobbing his eyes out. Moved under the weight and love of the Holy Spirit, calling to him, pressing on him, breaking through years of brick after brick built up in a wall around his tender boy-like heart, Steven broke and years of welled-up pain freely spilled off of his face.  This was not the day things changed for Steven, nor would things change for the better in the days ahead, but I gave him my worn and scribbled throughout Bible one of the last times I saw him during that season of friendship and grace.

And then he was gone…

It had been months since I heard from him, or our mutual friend until one night I received a phone call from that mutual friend.  “Steven is in big trouble. Please pray.  Is there anything you can do? He is messed up with dangerous people and he needs help.”  I prayed and suggested Teen Challenge.  It was late at night and I spent much of the evening emailing the program manager and asking for scholarships.  Of course Steven had to be willing and there was no guarantee scholarships would be approved.  I had no money, Steven had no money.  What were we to do?  Discouraged and exhausted, I ended my night with this prayer, “Lord, if you want Steven in Teen Challenge, you will get him to Teen Challenge.”  That was it.  It would be another year before I heard anything about Steven.

On a particularly beautiful sunny day, our mutual friend showed up on my doorstep.  He came with news.  GOOD NEWS.  As we sat out on my back patio enjoying conversation and the heat of the middle of the day, he began to tell me that things had hit rock bottom for Steven, he had been arrested, he had faced his sentencing with two options: Jail or Teen Challenge.  Steven chose Teen Challenge.  That was 15 years ago.  In the last 15 years, Steven has gotten married, has a beautiful family with 2 children, has been a youth pastor….

AND…..

is now counseling youth at Teen Challenge.

Remember, how I told you the Holy Spirit changed my direction for writing this morning?  Well, I prayed, as I always do, for heavenly inspiration, meaning I don’t want to write out of my will, but His will.  I wait and see where He would lead me in Scripture, what He would say to me through prayer, or how He would show up in some sort of confirmation on how I am to proceed in writing.  Well this morning as I was in intimate fellowship with Him, as I am each morning, I heard the familiar ding of a facebook message.  It was Steven, sharing the good news of his counseling position and thanking me for praying for him 15 years ago…

If you think any of your prayers are “last ditch”….think again,

God may be digging wells of everlasting glory….

Stay tuned for next week:  Elijah and the Prayer of Faith. Disclosure: Unless otherwise directed under holy influence.

Amazed, held and intimately known,

Trish

The Art of Prayer

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about prayer.  For some, including myself, prayer is as natural as breathing.  It has become so much a part of our innermost being and ongoing conversation with God, that if it were removed from our lives it would be like the great divorce, or sudden death.  The very breath of our being cut off.  We would be sure to wither back into a state of depravity, suffocating under the weight of a thick darkness that blocks the very expressions of our souls.  Darkness would pervade snuffing out the very photosynthesis that causes our growth.

As I write, I imagine prayer to be somewhat of a portal to heaven.  Words released that travel through time and space, instantaneously, and even often before we speak them, into this unknown realm our hearts and physical bodies crave to be and one day catch up with.  What happens when these expressions…words…groans… get there is still a holy mystery, yet through the pages of God’s voice to us in His living and active Word…we get a glimpse of what happens when our words, through prayer, arrive Home, in our Abba Daddy’s heart.

Do our prayers really move the heart of God?  I mean, do they really move God’s heart into acting on our behalf?  Is there power in our prayers?  Does God change His mind when we pray?  Can we really expect to see miracles and healings through prayer?  how integral of the Christ following life should prayer be?  I will answer the last question first and then see if I am able to get to the others, in maybe a series of blogs.

Prayer is our communication with God. through the brutality and blood of the Cross, the veil of the temple was torn and we now have FULL access to our Father in heaven through prayer.  Hebrews 4:16 tells us we can now come boldly and confidently before Him….this is good news and we will look at those two words “boldly” and “confidently” in a bit.  But what happens if we aren’t praying?  Simply put, if we are not praying, He has no obligation to hear us, answer us, or even be in vibrant relationship with us.  Let me put it this way.  If you are married and aren’t communicating with your spouse, the relationship will soon deteriorate, pervasive loneliness will set in, and the once vibrant and adventurous river that the two of you once explored together, will soon become stagnant, a cesspool of unseen bacteria infecting all who drink from it.  Many marriages fail because they were never taught the art of conversation…the spontaneity of it, the beauty of it, the ebb and flow of it, the hush of it, the tears of it, the laughter of it and the full on mad of it, all interwoven in and through words spoken to another out of the outflow of a heart of clay fashioned and formed by the Potter.

Yes, art….  Yes, formed by the hands of God to communicate, first to God and then to one another.  And, like an artist, who is quickened to an idea, a concept, an insight, a broken heart, a story they long to tell, a picture of victory, a tale of tragedy, they long to share with the world, until it finds its way out, it will only yearn to give birth never fully coming to fruition succumbing to death in the womb of its own selfishly hidden ideas.  If the birth pangs prolong and there is none to deliver or receive this new gift, it will surely die.

And so it is with prayer…the art of conversation with a tender loving Father engaging the longings and stories of our hearts breathed out in whispers, tears, wailing and silence, laughter and anger, captured and received by the hands and heart of God.  When these expressions fall into His hands, He often uses them to bestow blessings and gifts on ourselves and others.

Woe to those who dream but do not pray…for their dreams will die within their own thoughts and minds and they will never know the rapturous joy of releasing them to the One who longs to hear their voiceless longings humbly placed into the language of prayer.

I hope to continue this series on prayer…and would love to join with you in any prayer requests you may have.  Please feel free to list them in the comments.

Thank you for letting me explore the language and art of prayer with you…

intimately held, beautifully known,

Trish

 

I’m glad we fell, babe.

Father’s Day and 27 years.

Hey babe, I haven’t written to you in a while, and I know how you like my blogs and all, so here’s my heart again.  With each year we seem to fall a little harder …in love, that is.  No really, it’s true, wouldn’t you agree?  With each passing year our original groove where we first fell the hardest, gets a little deeper and makes it harder for surprises to threaten who we are together.  Sure, some of those surprises take their best shot at tearing down who we were, are and keep becoming, but so far every threat has only been used for our good and God’s glory and only proves to press us deeper into Him and harder into one another instead of pushing against God and away from one another. God has a way of turning what was meant for evil into good when life plays hard, and if we sit a while we get to see what He is up to and how somehow we not only fell in love 27 years ago, but fell into God’s plan for this covenant made for three.

Some people try really hard to stay in love, long after they tried really hard to fall in love.  We didn’t seem to have to work at it…we just fell and never got up.  Some people search long and hard, scanning websites, malls, bars, even churches for the right mate and others just fall…. There’s risk in falling, but if in the fall you come face to face with true love, then you’ve won, and the victory was worth the fall and the fight all along.  That’s us, babe.

Maybe since we fell so hard the first time, in some odd way that seemed to soften the blow of how many times we would stumble in marriage through the years.  The first fall was the hardest and I remember it well, we left quite a dent.  It’s a fun story to tell to our kids over and over.  Their young adult faces light up, accompanied by an eye roll or two when we tell them it was love at first sight.  We locked eyes at the start of 1992 and haven’t looked away since. I think I know your eyes better than my own, but isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? They have a way of reminding me who I am when I look into them.

Little did we know how many stones we would dodge after the fall, stones that never seemed to make contact……if we just stayed low enough….right where we started.  We were good at throwing them at one another, too, but when you stay low, like us, the damage is never irreparable.

Maybe we never even had to duck.  Except that time I shattered the glass shower door with the iron.  yeah, you ducked then.  There was a lesson in that one, let me tell ya.  God did a little shaking and a siftin’ in me, a little pressing and a crushing and I got a little lower.  The dirt was welcoming to my knees and our groove got deeper.  True repentance  is supposed to bring change and healing.  The book is true.  It did.  I never threw another object at you.  Mercy.  Mercy falls while you’re in the dirt….in the valley.  There seemed to be a path carved out in mercy leading straight to heaven for us in low places, in the “I’m sorry’s’ and “I love you’s.” Maybe we learned to love hard in the valley while arrows flew right over our heads in the heavenlies. Oblivious at times.   The valley has a way of teaching us we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood but unseen authorities, principalities and powers.. that are relentless in waging war against our souls, and our covenant. If they can break a marriage covenant, they can mock the Bridegroom.  We learned if we resisted the enemy and ran to Jesus, the enemy was sure to flee, and we could PRAISE the Bridegroom.  We did, and our marriage is a living and loud declaration of what defeats Satan’s mockery, (Revelation 12:11).

When I fell so hard in love with you my dearest love on earth, my best friend, my husband, my goose, I didn’t know God would say, “stay right there…the ground is a good startThe lower you go, the deeper you will love….marriage is often a crawl not a sprint.  Marriage is forged on your knees, not under your feet.  Marriage gets low and stays low in order to serve the other one, even when the other one can’t serve you back.  Marriage stays in a position where it first fell in love.  Marriage looks up from below, whispers secrets of the heart that soar along the echos of shouting reminding the other one how to come back down and reposition oneself victoriously.  It reaches out a hand instead of putting up the hand.  Kisses instead of scorns.  Feeds instead of devours.  Sees the one you fell with as a gift to cherish and not the enemy to run from, even when the enemy tries to raise you up in pride, you stay low and examine yourself before, or often after, trying to rise above your mate. 

Jesus stooped down and drew a line in the dirt.  God formed man out of dirt.  Jesus taught parables about soil and seed.  Jesus taught us how to wash the dirt from one another’s feet.  He came to dwell with us in the dirt.  He wasn’t afraid of the ones who were dirty.  He mixed his spit with the dirt to heal a man’s blind eyes.  There’s something about the dirt, babe.

A husband who falls with his wife in that place called love and stays low is a husband she looks up to.  You didn’t do it perfectly, babe, but my respect has only grown for you first as God’s son, a man created in His image, a co-laborer in life and family, a business man, a husband, a father.  If you’ve proven anything, you’ve proven your dependable, reliable, loyal, hardworking, passionate, and that your vows to me and to God stand firm.  Here we are with three grown adult children who you still show up for, pour into, lend a hand to, love and continue to teach about adulting.  Your’e good at that.  Remember your the choleric and I’m the sanguine.  You’re the realist, or as I like to say, “the funsucker” and I’m the one trying to make it fun.  But if our children are a mix of a funsucker and a hyper-optimistic fun-magnet then God knew what He was doing. I’ll leave it at that.

There is something else that falls often as hard as two people falling in love at first sight and that thing is grace.  And when grace drops down from heaven, it puts you back in your place so you can protect your groove and settle in once again to who you were created to be together, drawing on the familiar and discovering ever changing nuances, tracing new lines on old skin, inahling familiar scents that actually trigger endorphins in the brain of comfort, security….. and exhaling once again…yeah, that’s us…..

Oh of course there are mountain top experiences…..but you can’t get there without trudging the valley.  And what after 27 years you get in a squabble in the kitchen trying to enjoy a season of empty nest and your desire to be right overrides the enjoyment of just the two of you?  Do you stomp off or do you reach over to touch familiar skin…older skin…. and say I’m sorry? Watch stern aging lines go soft……..a reminder you’ve been together a while…those lines.  I”ll pick skin over silent rights and rigid body language.  I’ll take waking up to a kiss instead of left over anger still brewing from the night before.  Even if it means I get to say sorry first, from that low place.  The low place understands forgiveness and heals…often in an instant.  Love does forget when it keeps no record of wrongs.  Funny how my list of wrongs grew shorter.  Funny how I can’t remember them even when I want to remember them.  Maybe that’s menopause, maybe that’s my groove in the dirt…..

And now here we are 27 years since we fell deep in love and I can honestly say, I love you more today then I did then.  I like our low place together, its our groove and we fit there.  Over the years we have learned which buttons not to push, the small ones and the nuclear ones, we’ve stayed away from those the last few years.  It’s as if we got to study one another in the low places….like those war movies where the men are lying in the dirt making plans against the enemy.  Time is short and they need a plan. Sometimes its an ambush they plan, other times they are getting ambushed. They had to stay low and hidden in order to do that. out of the enemies eye while on his territory.   It was there they made vows, promised never to leave the other, promise to carry the other to safety, promise to take care of one another’s families should one perish.  I feel like those war buddies crawling through mud together,staying hidden in Christ, cuz this world is a war babe, and even if Jesus is my hero, you’re my battle buddy.  Cuz we don’t war against flesh and blood but we wrestle against powers and principalities and authorities in the heavenlies.  and if we’re going to make it we need a plan wrought in the dirt, eye to eye grit, mud on our bellies, heart to heart loyalty, covering each other’s back while the enemy stalks us all he wants….

There’s a new season before us my love, and its rich with blessing, cuz we hear better now….the sounds of heaven are clearer down here which seems backwards but wasn’t that the life of Jesus?  He humbled himself in the form of a servant and he always heard His Father’s voice.  He knew the secret of life and love and success in relationships.  Go low and stay low.  Serve the hardest to serve…. even when it’s your spouse.  love the hardest to love….even when its your spouse.  Forgive the unforgivable, or at least what you think is unforgivable, even when its your spouse.  When I grieve the Holy spirit is when I start looking down on everyone else in the dirt, and then I remember where I came from, and where we started when we fell….

I love you, babe and I love our groove.  When we fell hard…..God had a plan…

and hell shook…..

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

Isaiah 57:15: For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in a high and holy place and also with with him who has a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.

 

When Jesus Whispers Are You Near Enough to Hear?

I really want to hear Jesus.  Did you read that?  I mean, did you really read that?  Go back and read that sentence again.

really want to hear Jesus.  I want to hear everything He is saying to me.

I want to hear everything He is saying to me in every situation, at all times, with all peoples, everywhere.  I desperately want to know what’s in my Lord’s heart.  What He loves. What He desires.  What He is planning.  What He is thinking.  What He delights in.  Who He is pursuing.  What He hears from the Father. What troubles Him.

Yes, what troubles Him….

“After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in His spirit and testified, “”truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”” John 13:21.

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled.” John 11:33

“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.” John 11:38.

“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “”sit here while I go over there and pray. And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “”my soul is very sorrowful, even unto death,; remain here and watch with me.  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:36-39

Because I desperately want to hear from the Lord, and have “upped my ante”  in doing so, I asked the Lord where to start in His Word for 2019.  First, lets cover what the phrase “up my ante” means:  It is a British phrase used in the sense of, “to increase the costs, risks, or considerations involved in taking an action or reaching a conclusion.”

So let’s start there.  Hmmmm….am I willing to increase the cost, take risks, and have considered all of this in desiring to do whatever it takes to hear from the Lord?

YES!

This morning I awoke a bit somber…a bit heavy…a bit forlorn…and this is all quite unusual for me.  Just about on any given day, at any hour, you could ask me how I was feeling on a scale of 1-10 and my answer would most likely be, “10.”  I contemplated whether or not to add an explanation point to that “10” but decided a “10” speaks for itself, no emphasis needed.  It’s simply a fact that no matter what my circumstances are in life, I am a “10” because of Jesus and all that He has done for me in my life.  This verse sums it up,

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with JOY!” Psalm 126:3

As I reflect on my journey with My Lord over these last 42 years of my life, and more intensely the last 22 years of my life, I cannot think of a time the Lord has not done great things for me.  He has always been good to me.

Always.

So even though I was feeling a bit somber, (which I no longer am) after spending a couple hours with my favorite person, the Holy Spirit, I was still a “10.” I have come to know that status is unchanging in  my heart.  You might argue and say, “Trish, your life is good right now, you aren’t going through anything (at least that I can see) that would cause you to feel otherwise.  You are healthy, secure, in a good marriage…everything seems to be going your way…”

And often that is how it all appears to observers, onlookers…

The truth is there are circumstances in my life that I continually pray for breakthrough in.  That I continually sprint through that torn veil into the holy of holies on bruised knees, and with heavy head, and anguish of spirit, cry out, travailing in tears and tongues, “your kingdom come in this situation, Lord! Show  me your face!”

And I arise a 10 in Christ who makes me complete in Him, no matter what I am facing in the natural.  You see, this is a burning, intense joy, ablaze with hope, that cannot be extinguished by the cares of this life. 

Not in Christ anyway…

And that’s a good start and even better finish….in Christ.  If you are “in” Christ, you have been given the mind of Christ, through the Holy Spirit, and are therefore able to hear from Him.  There are several ways we hear from the Lord.  And I keep using that particular reference to Him, as Lord, because when we come to Him as Lord, we are giving Him Lordship over every area of our lives in an attitude of willingness and humility to allow Him to have His way in every spiritual and natural area of our lives.  The spiritual flowing into the practical….He is LORD.

His closest friends and companions referred to Jesus as Lord.

They called Him Lord.  

So how do we hear from the Lord?  The first and most reliable way we hear from the Lord is through His Word.  We cannot possibly get to know Him or know His heart unless we literally devour His Word.

“Your words were found and I ate them, and your word was to me, the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”  Jeremiah 15:16

If you believe for a second that you do not have time to devour His word and dedicate time to nurturing an intimate relationship with Him through His word, then you have bought into one of the GREAT lies of the deceiver.

WAGE WAR ON BUSYNESS.

“The thief comes to kill, rob and destroy, but I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10.

If you say you don’t have time, you have just allowed the enemy to rob and destroy an intensely joyful relationship with the Lord. You have just forfeited your own joy, and your key to unlocking the treasure of hearing from the Lord. You have forfeited deep, satisfying, intimate friendship with the Lord, a kind of friendship He tells his troubles to, his secrets…

The Lord confides in those who fear Him and reveals His covenant to them.” Psalm 25:14.  

Some versions say, “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him…

What that word friendship conveys through the beautiful Hebrew language is, “to recline with and have familiar conversation with as one speaks to a friend face to face.”

Let that seep into your being….don’t even keep reading until that seeps deep down into your innermost being…your deepest part…where deep cries out to deep!

Do you hear what the Lord is calling us to in 2019? A deep, unfettered, well of the knowledge of our God!  A deep well where the secrets of God’s heart are drawn out through returning to the place of familiar conversation with our Lord, day after day, morning after morning, walking with our Lord, communing with Him day and night, fearing Him rightly as Lord, but conversing with Him in sweet, uninhibited friendship!

So I asked the Lord this morning, where do you want me to start?  And I heard start at the last supper.  What was the last thing Jesus wanted to tell His closest friends before He left?  Who would He tell them to?  Would He simply give them instructions?  As vital to their coming survival and example in Christ those instructions were for what they were being called to… Was there anything else He would choose to reveal to His most closest and trusted friends?

Yes.  Jesus would not only teach them what was going to be expected of them and how they would live out those expectations, he would also reveal to one closest to Him what troubled him so…

Jesus is about to be betrayed and reveals to his disciples that one of them will, in fact, betray him.  We all know the story.  Jesus doesn’t come right out and say, “Judas is going to betray me tonight.”  I imagine if He would have said that, Judas would have denied it,”Never, Lord!”  Arguments may have broken out among the 12, and disruption surely would have taken place at the last supper, hindering the Lord from furthering his last words of encouragement and comfort and instructions to his friends.  He had more important things to say, rather than in haste point out his betrayer.  Yet there was one….one who He would tell…

One he could ultimately trust not to blab…not to pridefully point his finger at…for now was not the time, it would be revealed soon enough.  One who had patience and trusted His Lord with his heart, his secrets, his anguish of soul….

to this one, Jesus whispered to…..

He whispered because it wasn’t for everyone to hear.  He whispered because John was close enough to Jesus to hear His whisper.  John was seated next to Jesus.  I don’t believe for a second that was by chance.  For just like Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet, I believe John “saved his seat” by His Lord.  He may have even told the others, “I’m sitting next to Jesus tonight.”  Or the others may have known and not even questioned that John would sit anywhere else in the room except right next to his Lord, his closest friend.  John wanted no distractions that would divert his attention from hearing what his Lord wanted to say.  He would stay as physically close to Him as He could, even to his death.  Had he been at the other end of the room, he may have missed something.  Had he decided to sit next to a chummy friend he wanted to have a few good laughs with that night, he may have missed something…. had he been entangled with getting up and serving or making sure things were “just so” for the dinner, (after all he was one of the three in charge of preparing it), he may have missed something.

Instead, John chose to sit right next to Jesus.  He wasn’t about to miss a thing His Lord was saying,

even when He whispered…..

and that required a position that was unwilling to be anywhere else other than right next to Christ.  A position so close, he was close enough to press in even more intimately…

so close he was able to lean into Jesus’ chest. unashamed.  uninhibited.  As if to say,

Why are you so troubled, Lord?  Tell me! If there is a secret you are willing to share with me, I am leaning in!  I’m pressing in!  I won’t get up from this place or attend to anything else until you tell me! I’m listening, Lord.  I care about what troubles you!  What grieves you!  It grieves me, too!  

I am convinced this is the kind of friendship Jesus is looking for in each one of us.  But not everyone will find it.  Not everyone will sacrifice busyness, distractions, time….not everyone will slow down enough to hear not only the troubles of the Lord’s heart, but also the glorious, astounding, soul trembling, hidden things of His heart, He longs to reveal to those who sit near enough to hear His whisper.

Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”  Jeremiah 33:3

 

 

When Mary met JESUS

If I could take you there with me as if we were sitting down for coffee with Mary of Magdala…and we asked her about her transformation.  Ya know, what was that like????  We want details don’t we?  I mean, we know when details aren’t helpful, right?  We know when not to ask something, or tell something….but really, we crave deep meaningful conversation and we want the whole story…… but what if she began this way to our question….. “What was it like, Mary?”

“I’ll never forget the first time I heard his voice…

“Mary?” Who said that? Did someone say my name? My name….my name…my name…my name is Mary! I can’t remember the last time anyone had spoken my name.  Maybe my mama…I think she was the last one.  I hadn’t heard anyone say what my mama called me in years… Oh, how I used to love it when she’d say my name…when I was in my soft place…all wrapped up in the quilts she had sewn for me, and that pillow she had stuffed for me.  Hand plucked feathers from the goose we got to eat that one festival. Warm and safe.  I would always be warm and safe…. waking to her whisper sweet. “Marythe sun rose for you today, can you feel it’s warmth?”  It’s like my name was all oiled up and softened in a mama-kiss before it ever left her lips.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say I was her favorite.  Mama and I, we were inseparable. She always made me feel so safe…from the older kids that teased me, the man who tried to touch me and smelled like old grapes and smoke and dirty…and  from….well, from the dark ones. I can’t remember when they came.  They just showed up one day and I remember telling mama about them, cuz I could tell her anything and she’d believe me too.  She always said, “sweet, oh sweet, don’t be afraid to say what’s hiding all the way down where you can’t see but only feel…right down here where it gets all twisted tied up and stuck” (motioning to her stomach), even if its the scariest thing you’ve ever done.”  So I told her one day….I see them in my dreams…and I’m so scared, mama…they are always after me, chasing me in the dark, and its cold and you aren’t there…and I keep screaming for someone to save me but the sound went deaf and no one can hear me!

“They’re not real, Mary.  Its just a nightmare….And when God cracks open the night and pours the light of shining  into it…and the heat of it kisses you here and here as she kissed my toes and my nose…they’ll go away.  My sweet Mary…”.

For a while all I had to do was remember mama’s words….and wait for the morning, and she was right.  It’s like the light scattered them and they’d run off just before dawn. They were frightened from the God- light.

Time kept pushing years into me, stretching skin and shape into my girl-like body and imaginative mind.  I had met and formed relationships with so many interesting people in the buzz of our market square.  I was so creative and skilled with dyeing the well-sought after textiles and fabrics in our family business.  Oh how I loved watching people travel for miles to see my designs.  In this I took great delight. And so it was for a season.  A season of life, success, status and prosperity. My world was so multi-colored and beaming with life the dark dancers had stayed behind the curtain hung in my mind dividing the stage between performance and reality.

I forgot about them until one night they came back.  I didn’t get much sleep that night, they’re shadows dripping a slow dance like drunken ghosts reeling and stumbling in and out of my dreams. And when the morning came, it was still dark.  Where was the light God was supposed to pour into the cracked open night?  Where was the heat on my face? I peered outside and saw the townfolk bustling about in their everyday affairs….they were in the light, why wasn’t I in the light? So I pretended I was in the light as I joined them and that worked for a few days….but then I got so confused, the dark ones crept in and stole sleep right out of the song that mama used to sing me to get me to the safe place.  And oh how my body burned and buzzed. Like flames licking at raw skin.  I was so sick.  My heart that used to slow to the rhythm of mama’s songs I had remembered,  and my man’s strong and gentle hands as they rubbed my weary shoulders from the water jugs…. just  ached and raced now.  They stole my breath and there was no peace in my bones. Food repulsed me and my teeth began to rot. No matter how hard I tried to shut my eyes I could see them and hear them…..screaming their taunts, like shrieks, drowning out unspoken cries that couldn’t get past that place….the deep place… my sanity dripping away with each tear…drip, drip, drip……. washing away.  As long as I could cry, I knew I was still alive.  My tears were like a healing rain to my shriveling soul, but when they finally ran out, I knew I was dead..

Things got so bad  I wasn’t safe anymore.  I couldn’t remember who I was.  Where I came from.  who I belonged to.  I was dirty, so dirty.  My head itched from the lice that had taken up nests in the matts of my hair, and the sores on my scalp and leftover gnawed skin….they oozed and stunk.  People were so afraid of me…I was afraid of me…and the voices never stopped.  Sometimes I ran screaming covering my ears trying to drown out the shrieking shadows, but that only made people run far away from me and scurry their children out of my crazed path.  They threw food at me sometimes like the feral dogs…the ones I slept with for heat. The ones that licked my left-over broken skin…

day after day I screamed and I could no longer decipher if it was the dark ones or my own  screaming being released from the twisting in my deep…..my whole body was in agony and I moaned along to their ancient hypnotic song…..

Torment never left me and if the torment inside of me wasn’t enough, the stabs from the daggered looks of faded from memory friends and kind neighbors, who now shunned my very presence, deepened my anguish.  I was worse than the lepers, they had each other.  I had no one….but the dark ones.

Mary…there it is again!  Who is it?  Stop taunting me!

“wait….say it again, please….it sounded like safe….say it again….please….”

Mary…… I was blinded from the blazing light….

“its shining in that sound…..please say it again?  It sounds like…like you know me….

nobody knows me anymore, its been a long time since I went away.”

Mary…. this time louder….

more light! can it be?!?  I haven’t seen light since I can remember!

Mary, I have always known you….I gave your mama your name….I was there when she held your naked slippery skin still wet from her womb and in a barely whisper breathed out your name on you.

can you hear me, Mary?  I told the dark ones to be quiet.  They have no more authority over you.

“You can’t have her, she let us in!  She’s done too much, hurt too many people, she will never be free! They will never accept her, not now, not ever! Her reputation is that of a mad woman! No one will let her come near them!”

Be quiet! and return from whence you came.  You no longer hold any power over this lamb for I hold the power of heaven and earth and all authority has been given to Me!  This Mary you have tormented for this short time, belongs to the king of Kings and Lord of Lord’s and you will never visit her again.  Be gone.

and then He ROARED….and in the wake of His mighty roar…

Fear fell off  like a weight of a thousand rocks shattering the earth below…

Unloved lept from its strangling grip on my heart and disappeared into the light…

Shame slid like scales from my eyes and their singed remains vanished in the fire of His gaze…

Sickness limped away crooked and disfigured….

Lies, screamed in torment covering its ears at the deafening roar….and fell silent.

Death loosed its grip and no longer summoned me….

Pride hung its head in shame and bowed in subjection to this Mighty King before me ….

Suddenly, I remembered who I was! I could see!  I could think! Tranquility ran like a healing balm over my mind, soul and body….my flesh wounds closed up and my heart slowed to the rhythm of unfamiliar love, yet I recognized it as the love I had longed for my whole life….Love had awakened me! He spread His robe over me and covered my exposed nakedness, dressed my wounds, gently lifted me from the ground below us and drew my eyes into the heat of His gaze….and then He smiled the delight of a thousand smiles and said,

Mary…sweet mary…The Son rose on your darkness today…follow me.

 

The Best Wine

Weddings are expensive.  They will cost you.  I know this because my middle daughter, Kylee, the princess of the two beautiful female descendants of mine, is soon to be married.  This means many things.  The first, according to the goose (AKA Eric, my husband and father of the bride”, would say, and furthermore can’t wait to say to the groom on June 23rd, 2018 is, “She’s all yours!”  Which, if you are reading this correctly can hear the sound effects of the ringing and dinging of a cash register, Cha- ching!  Or as the sign on our kitchen wall reads, “Bank of Dad; where money grows on trees” will no longer hold true. From diapers to dance lessons, onesies to prom dresses, butterfly kisses to blown kisses through car windows, long and lingering snuggle-wrapped naps to quick teenage hugs, baby shoes to high heels, bumped heads and scraped knees to broken and shattered hearts, first day of school to first boyfriend, pre-school to college graduation and lullaby’s all the way to the wedding march, the dam of the “bank of dad’s” heart, will break loose in more ways than one.

On June 23rd, 2018, after signing off the last check to all the professional services hired to ensure a perfect day emulating an elegant/romantic theme, feeding 150 or so guests a plated dinner, under hundreds of aromatic blooms, Eric will wipe the sweat from his brow, change his perspired- drenched shirt, take deep breaths to calm his racing heart and somehow try and remind himself, his daughter, his birdie, the bride…with these four words:

She was worth it.

We have been planning this wedding for 18 long months, because for some weddings, a great deal of thought and preparation must go into them.  The to-do list is never-ending, it takes ongoing communication with the many hired services, from pastor to DJ, florist to decorator, hair-stylist to make-up artist, chef to cake-baker, dresses and shoes, invitations and save the dates, honey-moons and plane tickets, marriage licences and passports, table-seating and wedding signs, songs and scripture….

you get my drift.

Weddings were never meant to be a small event.  In fact, the very first wedding ever recorded in history, is found in the oldest book of history, the bible.  John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, recorded this spectacular event for us in John chapter 2. The only one of the four gospels to document it, Jesus entrusted John to report His first miracle, which just happened to be, of all places, at The wedding of Cana.  Jesus performed many miracles, many healings, many deliverances, yet instead of the first recorded miracle being the casting out of a demon, or the healing of the lame or sick, Jesus chose something better, something far more significant.  Something that would not only stir the sign-seekers, but carve a deeper message into hearts set apart and made ready to understand this simultaneously physically natural yet Holy metaphor.  I believe he did so because he seemed to understand Jesus best. He not only understood the significance of a wedding being a well planned out event which caters to its very important guests, he recognized how the giving in marriage between a man and a wife is to be celebrated here on earth as a foreshadowing of the great wedding feast yet to come between Christ and His bride one glorious day in the future for every Christ follower.

and so we celebrate…and we celebrate well.

Probably the most intimate description of a wedding can be read in Song of Solomon, where here again, the finest of preparations are given a great undertaking.  Expensive oils, spices, flowers, cedar, wine, food and aphrodisiacs, are all listed as part of the long-awaited ceremony and consummation.  Song of Solomon describes the groom like a stag “leaping over the mountains and bounding over the hills” for his bride, peeking through windows and beckoning his bride to a new and blessed season in life filled with sweet love blessed and ever flourishing that they will build together.  And the bride’s thoughts are so consumed of her groom that she dreams of him at night, “On my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves…I held him and would not let go… (Song of Solomon 3:1-3).  She is fearful she will lose him and cannot find him.

She is utterly lovesick.

So in love are they, that when the day of the wedding feast finally comes, they are said to be inebriated with love, drunk with love and so invite their guests to share in the beloved intoxication of this two-souled union being woven into one.

…Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” (Song of Solomon 5:1).

Ah, weddings…a glimpse of the dew of heaven resting upon us, shimmering off the rise of the sun, awakened to love at a depth of intensity and rising passion we cannot describe.

The tingle of exotic tastes, the stimulation of unknown senses coming to life in the physical union of flesh on flesh. 

And if I made you blush….I didn’t intend to.

God doesn’t blush at sex.  He created it as a sacred long-awaited pleasure between a man and his wife.  A pleasure that never gets old…representing the intimacy, joy, purpose and love the two joined as one are called to emulate to a world too often filled with the tearing of this covenantal fabric. The marriage bed represents a deeper knowing of the other one in his/her most intimate places.  And this, too, points to a deeper knowing of the bridegroom, Christ, as we are called to an intimacy and passion for Him that transcends that which is physical.

So what does all this mean in light of the celebratory scene of Cana settled into the Palestinian landscape of the small fishing village of Galilee? Jesus had just entered the scene.  He had been baptized by John the baptist, been tempted by the devil for 40 days in the wilderness, called his disciples, and now is the invited protagonist, along with his mother and disciples, at the Wedding of Cana.  The first thing we notice is that weddings are supposed to be celebrated.  The bride and groom, from ancient of days, are to be surrounded by a large number of family and friends, young and old alike.  They are to enjoy the effort and beauty, planning and serving that goes into the long awaited event.  Guests typically bring gifts to help the new couple begin their new lives together and they do it with gladness of heart.  Tears of joy are often shed during the ceremony.  Imagine, something as common as a wedding, can still evoke deep emotion out of hidden wells in our hearts and find their way out in gentle rivers down our faces at the sight of the bride, or the sound of the vows, or the lyrics of a song.

We want this.  We all want this. 

We want lifelong joy and commitment, health and prosperity, blessing and laughter, tears and hope, tenderness and cherishing, a stick-to-it-ness and perseverance that a marriage requires.

We cry out of the knowing…that there will be sickness and health, there will be richer and poorer, yet we cry because we know we were created to endure, and those of us who have endured cry harder.  Not out of pain, but out of sweet triumph that the other side brings.  For those of us who have been together longer than when we were apart…

we know. We made it to the other side.

our hearts have told us something the couple before us knows not.

Not yet anyway.  Yet our tears water their terrain so that their love may grow and mature…

and stay.  

And Jesus knows that this wedding is the celebration of a lifetime that will be tested, and refined through fire. The physical pointing to the spiritual. For just as a marriage is tried and tested, so is the heart of a committed believer who views the cross as both his heartbreak and his hope, his offense and his joy, and He knows the best is yet to come. At the cross death brought life, agony brought healing, darkness brought light, surrender brought forth mighty power.

And here we are at Cana where the ceremony is finished and the reception is ablaze with laughter and dancing, and the worst thing that can possibly happens, happens! The wine runs out! What will they do?  The guests will leave and the party will be over unless Jesus does something!  This will not look good on the wedding coordinator’s resume! Mary, (Jesus’ mother and quick thinker as mom’s usually are) takes the problem to Jesus.  If us Christian moms know anything, we know Jesus is the answer!  She says to  her son, “They have no wine.” Though Mary, herself, had yet to experience her son’s divine authority and power, the angel’s words rang just as loudly in her ears at that moment as they did 30 years ago…”He will be great and be called the Son of the Most High…” (Luke 1:32). If Mary knew anything about the Most High, she knew He was the one who split the sea, raised the dead, rained manna from heaven and caused her to become pregnant as a virgin apart from any sexual contact.  Surely, His Son could come up with a solution at her friend’s wedding.

And here they all were, waiting on Jesus…eyes locked and some loaded.  

Mary quickly commands the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do.  And I believe by the sheer thickness of the authority of the Holy Spirit’s presence, they willingly obey.  They bring six stone pots to Jesus.  Each pot able to hold 20-30 gallons of water, and they fill them with water (a precious commodity), at Jesus’ command.  Jesus then commands them to draw out the water and take it to the master of the feast.

When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though his servants did), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine.  But you have kept the good wine until now.”  This is the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory, and his disciples believed in Him” (John 2:9-12). 

In modern day times, the equivalent cost of these six pots of the best wine is $90 million dollars.  How did I come up with that number?  It’s simple.  Google tells me that the most expensive bottle of red wine out there is a 1992 bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet with a net worth of $500,000. Who would pay such a price?

Jesus.

It is time to bring this blog to a close and my reflections to be stored away, pondered, and maybe a sentence or two, here or there, whisper truth to you from time to time.

Jesus is for weddings.  He is for celebrating them well.  He is the best wine saved for last for those who stick around and look to him when they run empty. Your marriage is worth the best Jesus has to offer. The finest most expensive and extravagant cost Jesus paid. He paid it on the cross.  He paid it for you and for your marriage.  And for that great wedding feast yet to come! He is the bridegroom leaping over mountains and hills and peering through windows to catch a glimpse of His bride! The invitation to the the glorious wedding is open and He is preparing His bride.  Will you come to Jesus?

The spirit and the Bride say, “come.”  And let the one who hears say,”Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”  Revelation 22:17

And like any Good Father will say to his daughter bride,

She was worth it.

 

I saw the moon

I saw the moon in a blackened sky

as sleepy heads stirred and soft mama lips hushed baby’s cry.

Around the moon bore a soft illumined glow,

twilight danced and stars blinked,

strung low. 

I thought of my Creator, who is and always was to exist

speaking into the void

cutting through mist.

the morning stood at a distance awaiting its command

to shed forth the sun and light up this land.  

at the crack of creation a covenant was fixed,

day and night would be separate and no longer mixed. 

the dark interrupted by streams of bright light,

shot forth from his mouth, opening the night.

bases were sunk to hold up the earth,

 the deep obeyed its bounds,

and lines were drawn around mountains outlining their girth. 

Man has no excuse to deny our God most high, 

just wake before dawn 

and gaze into the blackened sky.  

The keeper of  tens of thousands of moons, 

Stringer of stars, 

 carver of lone desert dunes,

This God who gave form to a bottomless void,

calls us each into  love 

and swelled hearts overjoyed.

The same God who drew patterns of rivers and seas

connecting the land and painting the trees,

molded man from the dust and fashioned women from man’s side,

Is calling today, come near and abide.

come dwell with the God who unlike man knew no birth,

yet created his people with intrinsic worth.

Yes, that’s you in His image were made,

to shine forth His glory,

as all distractions fade.

Fading fast in His presence, 

as you sink into his embrace

kissed by His love

in this holy secret place.

A place so sacred, 

he cannot wait to share

to tell you His story, will you listen?

Do you dare?

of love on a tree, crushed and bleeding, a criminals death, and a just decree.

the demons they trembled, bowed low to defeat, the enemies works destroyed,

a new mercy seat. 

at the right hand of the Father, He now sits to reign,

a scepter of righteousness, makes free from all blame.

If sin keeps you shackled and fear has you bound,

repent lost sinner, for you have been found!

So run to that place

and dance with delight

seek his presence,

know His gaze, 

surrender the fight!

Sink into that gaze that burns with jealous fire,

adorning yourself in His righteous attire.

Let your mind and your heart unite in cries of praise,

seek His Spirit, 

feel His touch ignite a holy blaze.

Then up from your knees, lift your eyes from the floor

show others the way, 

THERE IS SO MUCH MORE!

The illusionary problem of spiritual gifts

I am reflecting…

As an introvert, reflecting comes quite naturally, because us intros tend to experience something and then let that experience float around in our brains for a good length of hours and moments, days and vivid dreamed filled nights before we settle what we believe about it.  We can take that thing and dunk it over and over, trying to scrub out every spot before we finally wring it out for good and hang it up to dry.  And somehow that’s where it finally makes sense to us, where from the clothesline stretching from the left to right in our brain we can see it all sorted out.

So I have been reflecting for just over a week now on a little trip I took with some dear friends down to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to the Convergence of Word and Spirit Conference hosted by Sam Storms and Bridgeway Church.  We joined a few hundred Word-empowered believers and allowed our hearts to be cracked wide with the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit.  There we were, strangers in the flesh, yet a tangled kin of Spirit, doused in a fountain of truth,  refreshed and renewed with a pervasive sense of awe and the blinding beauty of God revealing this one truth:  spiritual gifts are not bad, nor are they a problem, they are indeed, very, very good and the body of Christ needs them.  Without them, we are fractured, sick, limping along, as we rejoice in half of the whole, two-thirds of the threefold manifest presence of God and somehow we are weakly satisfied. We are a giant Jenga game with foundational pieces yanked out of us, waiting to collapse.

Now, be sure that before I went to this conference, it is not that I thought spiritual gifts were bad, nor did I think they were a problem, and until a year and a half ago, I just sort of thought I could get along fine without a few of them, but my heart ached a different story.  It’s not that many of us who run in reformed circles don’t believe that these spiritual phenomena happened in the book of Acts and the New Testament letters inspired by this same Holy Spirit, and still occasionally do…things like prophecy, tongues, healing, miracles, words of knowledge, etc., It’s just that they haven’t seemed to “fit” into the way we do church and relationships within the church.  Sure we pray for healing, but how often do we persist in praying for healing while we lay hands on a sick brother or sister over and over for as long as it takes, or even pray for the gift of healing that we may be used within the body of Christ to edify the whole body so that some who are sick may become well and they in turn are used to build up this fractured and fragmented body of believers?  Sure we all get “hunches” about others, or rhema words, but how often do we pray about the hunch and specifically ask God to grant revelation to our hearts about a brother or sister that once delivered, will penetrate their hearts with the boundless affection and reckless love of God for them?  Possibly even changing the trajectory of his or her life?  How often do we press into pursuing this gift called prophecy as Scripture commands?

This conference was,

 manna….for our starving souls.  This was honey for the bitterness that had spread to unknown depths of our hearts. This was a rich healing oil that softened skepticism. This was a wellspring of water for the fallow ground inside of us that only yielded certain fruit that was used to the drought.  But just as God is a multi-faceted God of variety, diversity, color and beauty, figs and bananas, pineapples and kiwi, strawberries and blueberries, melons and pomegranates,  so we are to be a people who are living so in step with the Spirit that as the body collectively comes together we are an eye-catching banquet of fresh, sweet, nurturing, soul-sustaining fruit, to one another through the use of spiritual gifts.  

I remember once when I had pneumonia, I was probably the sickest I have ever been in my life and I decided to eat a pear that had been ripening on my counter top. I don’t eat pears often, even though I think they are really good.  I just live my life without them much of the time, until I got sickAnd I was sick! So sick with a temperature of 104, that the only thing that sounded good to me was a pear. As I bit into that pear, tears instantly rolled down my cheeks.  It was as if I had never tasted anything so refreshing and sweet at the same time, and in-between bites, through sticky-sweet lips, I gave uninhibited praise to God!  It was like I had never tasted anything so revitalizing in my entire life!   True story.  Yet I can’t help but wonder if this is how it is with the church much of the time.  We think we are getting along just fine without some of God’s most precious and refreshing gifts to us….until we fall sick.  Sick with backbiting, pride, busyness, complaining and grumbling, numbers dwindling, apathy for the lost, divorce, adultery, pornography, isolation, addictions, complacency, abortions, legalism and worst of all Pharisaical hearts….and all the while we are among those in need of the manifest presence of God like oil and wine upon our shriveled and imprisoned souls.  Yet we are strangely satisfied with bananas day after day, offering each other another banana when we could be offering one another wine made from the finest variety of grapes, raisin cakes, apples, blueberries, and pomegranates in order to restore the body back to health.

Well, I was one of many who was privileged to attend such a banquet.  I attended a feast of the finest fruit with exquisitely wrapped gifts set amongst this bountiful harvest. This was love wrapped in human flesh, and I have never been a part of something so filled with the splendor of the King.

Those of us who came, simply came with open hearts and received.  We brought nothing in exchange.   

I left Oklahoma City with a more deep…expansive view of God in the fullness of His intimacy between Father, Son and Spirit.  The sky was bluer, the trees more ablaze in their autumn brilliance, the worship music angelic with melodious sounds crossing over from an unseen realm.  I left with an insatiable hunger to continue earnestly pursuing and desiring the spiritual gifts, and especially those I had once sadly thought were no longer needed like prophecy and healing.

I do want to be clear, even though I confess to a time where I did not think we had much use for the gifts, the funny thing was that I still believed and still operated in them from time to time, just not on a consistent basis.  I am grateful God has rekindled them and set a fire in my heart to cry out for more of who He is and seek His manifest presence through these gifts.

The morning after I returned from the conference I awoke with tears.  Tears of wonder as my heart refused to leave this attitude of awe and worship. How could it?  I had just witnessed deaf people healed, pervasive migraines healed, words of knowledge for people, people receiving the gift of tongues and the gift of healing.  A very intimate word was spoken over me that the woman delivering it could not have known about me, because it had only been between God and myself before.  I witnessed pastors hardened to the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit through spiritual gifts repent.  I watched men rise to their feet repenting of not being leaders in their homes. I heard the most beautiful sound as people around us sang in tongues and it served only to enhance my worship experience as tears rolled over my cheeks and dampened by sleeves.

and so much more!

So here I am, reflecting.  This morning I awoke to a thought piercing my right brain like a dagger, the problem with spiritual gifts is not the gifts themselves, but the people they are given to. Not very profound, I know, as many who have written about the gifts before me have stated. Yet, here I am attempting to make sense of a very controversial, often avoided, sometimes misguided, and all together divisive subject within the Christian community.  You see, I have been on a sort of quest the last year and a half.  As I look back, I am not even quite sure how I happened upon this alluring journey except for a small flutter of a deep inner stir that pricked my conscience and gave way to an almost deafening echo in the deep caverns of my groaning heart. That echo made everything within me, at the top decimal of the voice inside my head say, ‘There has to be more…”  It was the same voice that months earlier echoed in prayer over and over, “If you are the God of Job, then just as sure as you take away, you restore, show me that you restore, Oh God.”  He was faithful to answer that prayer then and has been ever more faithful to answer the bottomless echoed prayer in the pit of my soul that yearns for what it was made for: to truly know as much of God and His glory that this human frame traced by the finger of Holy can bear. 

You see, the problem is not the gifts themselves. Because they bear the mark of God, they are derived from God who is perfect.  He is wholly good.  He is the essence of  beauty yet to be discovered by human eye.  He is not surrounded by love or the efficacy of love, but is love.  He is not the kind of earthly love between humans, but an altogether pure and holy love.  He is wisdom and He is power.  He spoke and created all intricacies of life and cells and chromosomes and molecules and atoms and vapor and energy and light and sound and arteries pumping blood and oxygen.  He speaks and mountains quake and seas roar.  He tells the lightning where to strike and stores up frost and winter in storehouses laden with snow. He watches the deer give birth and commands the morning.  Day to day pours forth speech and night to night reveals the knowledge of who He is.  He is perfect.

We are fallen and born into sin.

And so we, in our fallen state, receive perfect gifts from the Father of lights with who there is no variation or shifting shadow, and it is we who shift and hide in the shadows. It is we who have not revered who God is and emulated what He is like when it comes to these gifts. We unwrap them and like spoiled children discard them, set them on a shelf in the back of our closets because we have so many other churchy things to choose from that the gifts can completely fade away and never even be missed. We have a myriad of ministries, organizations, charities, bible studies, small groups, events on the church calendar to fill our time. We have Christian friends who support our views and our high esteem of the Word while we ignore, neglect, despise and even mock some of the most beautiful work of the Spirit among us through spiritual gifts instead of cherishing Who they represent and why they are given.

They are given so that we might love well.  They are given that we may be sustained through power until Christ returns as we build up the church.

You see, sandwiched between the two most explicit chapters on spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12 and 14) is what is commonly referred to as the “love chapter.”  Often used at weddings as the scripture reading, it has lost its original and inescapably purposeful intent. It is used to describe the way the gifts are to be expressed.  If the gifts are an expression of God’s love towards us, then they should be sought and expressed within the same vein of love to which they extend from.  As I stated earlier, the problem is not the gifts but the fallen race, us….people when we don’t understand what Paul is saying to us in 1 Corinthians 13,

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

What Paul is stating here is that without love the spiritual gifts are useless, but with love, they will do exactly what they are designed to do and that is to build up and edify the church in love (1 Corinthians 14:12).  That is why we are told over and over and over again throughout scripture to love one another.  Because when we do and when we earnestly pursue the gifts in love for one another, something explosively beautiful happens!  We become an unstoppable army in the eruptive power of the Holy Spirit.  The sick are healed, the oppressed are set free, the blind see, (spiritually and physically), we fall more in love with Jesus as we see His presence, power,and agency flowing through His body and we are more energized to serve and love one another and our neighbors.

I don’t think the church will stand in the tumultuous days ahead without the all empowering presence of the Holy spirit and a people equipped with the spiritual gifts we have been lacking.  I, for one, alongside my reformed charismatic friends, will, “pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that I/you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1).