30 January 2014

Superbowl Prayer Vigil

Friends and readers (well, I guess that's pretty redundant, isn't it?) I'd like to introduce you to my good friend, AmberDawn. She has a story to tell, and a cause she's fighting for. Won't you join her, and me, this Sunday in putting our minds and hearts and intentions together and changing the world?

So please, share this. (Just click on the little three-dot icon in the upper-right corner of the video, and choose your method.) Share, and join us on Sunday in waking America up to the horror that still lurks in plain sight, to the slavery that thrives as it never has before in the history of the world.

And, thank you.

28 January 2014

Can You Imagine?

"And they set the men in their midst and repeatedly demanded, By what sort of power or by what kind of authority did [such people as] you do this [healing]? Then Peter, [because he was] filled with [and controlled by] the Holy Spirit, said to them, Rulers of the people and members of the council (the Sanhedrin), If we are being put on trial [here] today and examined concerning a good deed done to benefit a feeble (helpless) cripple, by what means this man has been restored to health, Let it be known and understood by all of you, and by the whole house of Israel, that in the name and through the power and authority of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Whom you crucified, [but] Whom God raised from the dead, in Him and by means of Him this man is standing here before you well and sound in body. This [Jesus] is the Stone which was despised and rejected by you, the builders, but which has become the Head of the corner [the Cornerstone]. [Ps. 118:22.] And there is salvation in and through no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by and in which we must be saved." (Acts 4:7-12 AMP)

Can you imagine . . . can you imagine observing a court case where a blue collar worker is accused of practicing medicine without a license, who then stands and testifies that he not only heals miraculously but offers eternal salvation (eternal salvation, people!) through the authority of a politically disfavored but wildly popular social media figure, recently executed by the government, and rumored to have risen from the dead?

That's the power of Jesus. That's the radical faith that comes from His Spirit, and His works done by mortals. Utter madness to the physical, logical mind. And the only course that makes sense to those who belong to Him. 

Father in Heaven, increase my faith, please. Show me more and more clearly Your love; and sharpen my spiritual senses to better feel the prophetic witness of Your Spirit. I love Your word and will, God, and I always want more. In Jesus' powerful name, amen. 

God is MADE of Good.

God IS good. All good is of God. He accepts it, when you work good, and blesses you for it. 

God is NOT bad. Nothing that comes from Him is bad. And if He ever asks us to do anything that brings hardship upon us, His justice requires repayment for everything we do in His service.  But He does not ever force things on us that we didn't agree to do. Often we refuse to accept the blessings owed & offered to us--hence the cultural Mormon practice of believing God is an authoritarian, often abusive, parent, whose omniscience somehow holds Him outside of His own commandments and the example of Jesus' life. One who purposely puts us into painful, difficult, or destructive situations "for our own good". I utterly reject such thinking. It led me nowhere in my life but away from relationship with my God. Away from His healing, loving, empowering presence and headlong into chronic depression. The fruit of that belief pattern was destruction and damnation. No thanks. 

We have lost the basic understanding that God IS Good. There isn't anything bad in Him, therefore nothing bad comes from Him. Period. (Anyone gather grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from bull thistles, lately?) If we could get that straight, so many false beliefs and stumbling blocks would simply disintegrate. And faith--real, true, and deep--would reappear as the primary motivator in the life of the believer, because faith is a spiritual gift, and once you worship God in truth, He can pour that kind of awesome into you. And truth be told, He's eternally poised, focused completely on you, waiting for the tiniest piece of encouragement or permission to do so. But when we're caught up and occupied with those thoughts of submission to our negative circumstances, we ask things of God He can't give, and don't ask for the thing that can save us: Him.

So, how about it? Give it a try. For a month, just believe Amaleki, the last of Jacob's descendants to care for the small plates of Nephi, who wrote:

"[I am] exhorting all men to come unto God, the Holy One of Israel,
and believe in prophesying and in revelations
and in the ministering of angels
and in the gift of speaking with tongues
and in the gift of interpreting languages
and in all things which is good,
for there is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord;
and that which is evil cometh from the devil.

(Book of Mormon, the Earliest Text; Omni 1:25, emphasis mine.)

I think you'll be amazed at the astounding power of God in your life once you no longer lay the work of the devil at His feet. 

God is MADE of Good. :-)

Seek Him, and He will be found!

I read this, today, at a good friend's blog:

"When we are completely converted, when we cease our idolatry, when we choose to love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength, (instead of our institutions and entertainments) then, suddenly, all these great blessings become a reality.  The gospel of Jesus Christ really does work.  God really does reveal Himself to man." 

I now add: not only does the gospel of Jesus Christ work, and not only does God reveal Himself to man, but the gifts and fruits of the Spirit ARE still vibrant and present in the lives of the followers of Christ . . . people are healed miraculously, visions are seen, prophecies spoken, lives change in a moment, people receive the second baptism and become completely new creatures in Christ. It happens all the time . . . outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons, we don't have a monopoly on salvation.  We never have.

"I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (Joseph Smith History 1:19)

Despite those words, God has never withheld the manifestation of His Spirit from those who are worthy.  Not everyone in "those other churches" clings to the creeds thereof. Those who do, miss out. Just as idolatrous members of the LDS church who speak and praise men to the nearly complete exclusion of Christ utterly miss the point of everything they're doing. Their belief in the Book of Mormon won't save them if they spend their time in worship focused on the wrong target. 

Those signs and wonders are in the Book of Mormon because they're supposed to be happening wherever there are followers of Christ. And yet it's totally absent in our discourse today. We sometimes mention, in language deeply shrouded with mystery, and reverence thick & heavy, one of the rare and precious times that we really, truly, personally felt God's love. Jesus said He would be as a fountain of Living Water, springing up continually in us unto everlasting life! Where's the rationing and restraint in that? To a desert-dwelling people, a fountain is a gaudy and murderous profligacy. That parable was to them. To show them the very beginning of Jesus' generosity and eagerness to pour His love into us. To continually baptize us into new life as His mercy is renewed every morning. 

We need the second baptism--the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without it, the first (symbolic) baptism of water is of no account. "Lest a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5)

Seek for it. Seek The Lord, and His righteousness. It will require utter fealty to Him, and Him alone. Offering up everything--even your own deeply-ingrained beliefs. You have to have faith; faith enough to put EVERYTHING on the altar, and only pick back up what He confirms are yours to keep. 

Seek Him, and He will be found. I know, because I have found Him. And I deeply want you find Him, too. 

24 January 2014

On Discernment

(This is a response to the heuristics here in Rob's post. I posted it as a comment here, but wanted a record here, as well.)

Funny, I also had some responses to your heuristics, but I usually let longer comments age a bit before posting them.  I appreciate kpeetersn's comments, as they did such a great job of opening the conversation, and showing an alternate point of view. Your heuristics are marked with a dash. My comments begin with an asterisk.

(Full disclosure: I have a habit of carefully examining statements' inverse and converse, because Americans have a persistent and faulty habit of assuming if a statement is true, then the inverse and converse MUST be true. Hence the power of the media.)

-Is the direction comfortable, easy, or desirable? It is probably not from God.

*God has asked me to do a lot of things I'm comfortable with, that are easy for me, and that I desire with all my heart. Just not necessarily at times that I feel like doing them. ;o) And, the more I have listened to Him, the easier and more desirable the things He asks me to do become.

-Is the direction difficult, will it lead to embarrassment, pain, sacrifice, loss of time and money? Probably from God.

*I'd like to qualify this one by saying these are not requirements for direction from heaven. Promptings I've received have saved me from all of those things at various times, often to great extent. Our God is a GOOD Father. Yes, sometimes He asks hard things of us . . . but not always. And never does He put us through hard things that we didn't choose. If hard things come into our lives, it's because our choices brought them there, whether or not God invited us on that path.

-Does it make you feel overwhelmingly small and insignificant? Probably from God.

*Promptings can bring these, especially as someone first begins to listen carefully to God's whisperings . . . but it's not a requirement. By "overwhelmingly small and insignificant", were you trying to describe the incredibly intimate and saturated feeling of humility that comes when God speaks direction to us? One of the strangest and most beautiful things I've learned lately about humility is that it takes a tremendous amount of it from me to approach the throne of grace boldly and accept all God has to offer, DESPITE my perceived shortcomings, the fact that I didn't spend as much time in the scriptures as I know God wanted me to last week, the fact that I'm not as devoted in prayer as I might be, etc. He still wants to pour out onto me as much as I can possibly accept. It's up to me to not beat myself up, preventing myself from accepting all He's able to give me right now, this moment. And let me tell you--THAT takes letting go of that overwhelming feeling of insignificance, of stepping forward in true humility and obedience, and a tremendous amount of trust in God. And it's 180 degrees from what I thought (and was taught) God wanted my behavior toward Him to be, which was more of the sackcloth and ashes, beating myself up kind of attitude. But who wants us to beat ourselves up? Not God. Who wants us to stand, simply and without pretense, in His presence? Not only wants that, but will rejoice with us in it? Not the adversary.

-Does it make you feel like you are someone special, that you are unique or specially prepared? Probably not from God.

*I think you may have meant something more like "Does it make you feel better than everyone, or anyone, else?"

God has used me in ways I know He prepared me for (some of those times were foretold in my patriarchal blessing, others later illuminated by the Holy Ghost) . . . and when I realized that was what He was doing, I felt all of these, along with a sense of His excitement that His planning was coming to fruition. We are ALL His favorites--and thinking of it that way is just the tiniest beginning of understanding how unstinting and lavish His love is for us. He specially prepares ALL of us for the work He wants us to do. Always. Everything in our lives can be turned to His work, to His will.

-Does it feel rushed, exciting, or thrilling? Probably not from God.

*This one needs some qualifiers.  "Cast yourself from this mountaintop, so God can catch you," fits nicely as one from the adversary. "Learn French so you can speak into the lives of people I will bring to you" does, as well. The difference in the second example being that I received it from God recently, and it's absolutely exciting and thrilling, (there's nothing more in this life that I could ask for than to know I'll be able to be an instrument in God's hands, no matter how simple) and I feel rushed because I know from the impression that came with His word that I don't have much time to do it. He wants me to do it now, without delay.

Fifteen years ago I had a very simple, sweet experience where my Spanish saved a lovely sister in line ahead of me at McD's from difficulty and embarrassment when it came time for her to order. That morning God told me to study the Book of Mormon in Spanish, which of necessity kicked into gear the slightly dusty Spanish-thinking corners of my brain. I was thinking in Spanish when I stopped for food on my way to class, and answering her questions, spoken softly in broken English, comfortably in Spanish is still something that brings a shine to my eyes, because she was such a gentle woman . . . and I'm so glad I was able to spare her discomfort, and possibly derisive laughter, at the hands of the rather hurried and impatient teenage McD employees that day. Remembering that experience, and thinking of this new instruction, has me pretty excited. Even if all I do is help someone understand a menu or bus schedule on a busy day in a big city.

-Is the direction towards something that you know there is no way you could possibly do it? Probably from God.

*Again, sometimes, yes. But if it's something that you can do, even easily, that doesn't disqualify it as from heaven. (Again, that inverse thing.) ;o)

As far as discerning of spirits, I've found several ways that work really well for me. The first step was realizing that complete thoughts that come into my head aren't from my own mind. I personally have to speak or write in order for thoughts to fully form, generally speaking. I can concentrate and "speak" thoughts in my own mind, but it's a very conscious thing, like speaking or writing. It doesn't just happen on its own, or when I'm doing something else.

Once I realized that, it became easier and easier to recognize the voices of familiar spirits assigned to tempt me. (Familiar spirits aren't just hanging around mediums and mystics. They are the imps who follow us around--whose presence we are accustomed to.) It took them about a week or ten days to realize I'd caught on; then things became more subtle. I rarely hear temptations in words anymore. (Right now it's mostly just straight-out spiritual warfare with emotion as the enemy's heavy artillery.) But the differences are still there. And when I hear from the adversary, those voices are easily distinguishable from the Lord's, for several reasons:

1) Timbre/quality. Satan just can't mimic the rich, full-spectrum, complete spiritual "sound" of the Lord's voice.

2) Accompanying feelings. When the Lord speaks to me, a feeling of encompassing love and calm comes along. (If I don't feel it right away, it's just waiting for me to accept it. Satan hasn't ever been able to reproduce it.) Added to that is a level of communication with each word that just can't be put into words--feelings and attitudes, emotions and thoughts, often still images, sometimes short video-like visions, and sometimes just the impression of color, shape or movement. This differs just as a single-tone melody midi file does from a live orchestra under the command of a seasoned and well-loved director.

3) Physical sensation. Promptings from God come with a feeling of balance and harmony throughout my body that begins at the crown of my head and quickly fills me. Temptations (which can be anything from the archetypical "you really DO want to see what that wine tastes like" to "She thinks I'm a lousy mom" or "I've lost every last bit of credibility with my leadership") come with little or no change in my physical state.

4) Direction. When temptations come, they originate from behind, above, and slightly to the right of my head. Communications from God originate in the very center of my mind, like the perfect flowering of the physical sensation I mentioned above as it moves through me.

I don't know if everyone feels these things. It's possible they happen to everyone, but not everyone discerns them. My mom told me when I was a child that I was a hypochondriac, had zero pain tolerance, and worried too much about how I was feeling. (As it has turned out, thanks to diagnoses in adulthood, I wasn't. There really were things wrong with me, but I didn't know how to express them with my child's vocabulary.) That said, all of that self-directed attention means that when there's even the tiniest shift, I recognize it.  So, there you go. :o)

13 January 2014

Stand up and BE.

And Jacob was left alone, and a Man wrestled with him until daybreak.  And when [the Man] saw that He did not prevail against [Jacob], He touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob's thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with Him.  Then He said, Let Me go, for day is breaking. But [Jacob] said, I will not let You go unless You declare a blessing upon me.  [The Man] asked him, What is your name? And [in shock of realization, whispering] he said, Jacob [supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler]!  And He said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob [supplanter], but Israel [contender with God]; for you have contended  and  have power with God and with men and have prevailed. [Hos. 12:3-4.] Genesis 32:24-28

Strive to enter by the narrow door [force yourselves through it], for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.  Luke 13:24 AMP

I keep seeing passages like these . . . passages where I feel God saying to me, "Stand up and BE POWERFUL already!" And I scratch my head and say, "Sure thing! What do I do, God?" and He keeps saying "BE POWERFUL in ME!" and I scratch my head again and say, "Okay, God, what do I do?" and we continue on and on in circles.

God has told me to do two things: spend time with Him in His word this way, feasting on His word and reveling in it. I love it--and I will make time for it. The other is to throw myself into my motherhood, and to let Him teach me how to do it, how to be a Godly mother who is close to her children, who takes good care of them, and has a truly lovely and inviting home--not because it's fancy or expensive, but because it's clean and made beautiful with my hands. (He has already wrought a couple fundamental changes in my mothering, and I can't wait to see what happens next.)  I've been haltingly attempting both . . . with limited and intermittent success. But that time is past. I'm done with "sort of" obeying. I can do these things--not just because they're totally reasonable and doable, but because God told me to. The provision has already been made. He has a vision for me, for my best life, for my highest happiness and blessing here and now. He is beckoning me to it. And I'm going to walk that way, wherever it takes me. He's there, walking with me, showing me where to go. I just have to hang onto His hand, train my body, mind & spirit to follow Him, and see what happens next.

I have to admit that the whole "Be Powerful" thing comes with a slew of sea anchors. I have a long history of getting myself into hot water with various and sundry for opening my mouth, for being too bold or too knowledgeable, for wanting to help too much, for thinking things through and coming up with solutions too quickly, for having too much input. For singing too loudly, for loving God and pursuing Him too much. For being different. For approaching things differently. I also have a long history of ignoring all of those negatives (with varying degrees of success), and pressing on in study, in music, in thought and in study. I love those things. I love Jesus. And pushing any of them back into a dark corner, neglected, feels like I die a little inside.

Father, like I said on facebook two days ago, I'm ready for change. I'm willing to change. I'm willing to be uncomfortable--even though Your changes can be REALLY uncomfortable. (Hello, yesterday! Ummm, yeah. I'd love to know what that was all about, what you want me to think or do. Thanks bunches.) Thank You so, so much for the love that comes to surround and heal, to lift and bless. And keep sending it, Father. Please. I have a feeling You're not done with me, yet. ;o)  I love you, Abba. I will strive to enter by the narrow door--though there are crowds pressing in to look at it, talk about it, take Instagram pictures, and otherwise obstruct it, while not going in themselves.   Give me love for every person, every child of Yours. I just want to know You, to love, and be loved. To touch lives in such a way that I leave a Jesus trail everywhere I go . . . I want that favor in the eyes of others so they can see YOU.  Being approved is much more comfortable than not (I'm the first to admit!), but that's the cherry on top. I just want to be well received so people will listen to the witness I have of YOU.  It's Your approval I crave--and that I want others to have. In Jesus' name, Amen.

05 January 2014

And The Lord said to Abram . . .

S: The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3 NLT)

O: God asked Abraham to leave the very nice home and lands he had and head off into parts unknown. He had only God's word that all would be well. 

A: God asks each and every one of us to leave the comfort of what we know, abandon all loyalties except to Him, and obey. Obedience to men--no matter how exalted--will never be enough to save, let alone exalt. We have one God: Jehovah. A jealous and just being who requires all of those who would follow Him . . . and yet, a God of astounding mercy, goodness, faithfulness and overwhelming generosity. He gave everything--holding back nothing. How on earth could we expect to pay homage to any other, and yet receive blessing from Him?

He showed us how to love one another, how to truly serve and please Him with our care for His children. But once we go beyond that and give habitual social praise or adulation to another, giving mortals more air time than God, we flirt about in idolatry. No servants of the Most High in scripture have ever accepted praise of men. They have continually rejected such and pointed to God. 

P: Father, show me any and all places where I cherish things above You; and show me how you would have me repent of that idolatry. I want my temple cleansed and prepared for whatever You require of me. You are my master, and I just want more of You in my life. Please, Lord, come more into my life. In Jesus' name, amen. 

03 January 2014

Beginning to "get it".

There's this thing that God's been teaching me. Slowly. Bit by bit.  He keeps showing me, and I keep trying to take it in. And each time I get a little bit more of it into my heart, and a little bit less of my old ways remain.  It's honor. Jesus' love. And how that changes everything between a parent and a child.

I have this five-year-old, who I call Ribbit. He's bouncy and fun, hilarious in his speech (an early adopter of his older siblings' jargon), and launching himself rapidly into a new level of social interaction. But he has also started saying things like "You can't boss me around!" and "I don't have to do what you tell me to!" complete with folded arms and a teen-worthy glower.

Sometimes, I still play out my own scripting, getting stern and authoritarian, and I insist in my best "I'm your mom and you'll do what I say voice", and he usually complies. Grudgingly. Disrespectfully. Angrily. And I accept it, because the next step is corporal punishment, and I'm just not willing to go there.

But sometimes . . . sometimes . . . I take a step back emotionally, give myself room to take a few really deep breaths, and give God space to come in.  I turn my mind to Him, and He never lets me down. He tells me what to say, how to explain to Ribbit what I'm asking, and why it's really important to our family for him to lend a hand. Why he's an integral part of our family's success, and how much we really do need him. And sometimes, I'm told to explain to him that it really does hurt my heart when he behaves that way.

It's not a quick fix . . . this is slow going, and I still haven't figured out where all of the plain 'ol garden variety of hate is coming from. But as I let God lead me through each conflict, I love my son more and more, and I see our connection growing through this, instead of weakening. 

02 January 2014

To you it shall be for meat.

And I, God, said unto man, Behold, I have given you every herb, bearing seed, which is upon the face 
of all the earth; and every tree in the which shall be the fruit of a tree, yielding seed; to you it shall be for  meat.  And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein I grant life, there shall be given every clean herb for meat; and it was so, even as I spake. And I, God, saw everything that I had made, and behold, all things which I had made were very good. Gen 1:31-33 IV

I have often read over these verses, and marveled over how God told man to be vegan. With the fall came predation and eating flesh, (which really, written that way, sounds awful), but I have always loved that, if it were up to God, really, we would all be vegan.

The time I spent as a raw vegan was the best health of my life. I had so much more energy, my body was cleansing and releasing toxins and shrinking to the tune of 2-3 pounds a week. (I wasn't doing any strength training then.) I had prayed and prayed and prayed to be able to be really and truly healthy, to have a deep vitality and strength, and I really felt like that was my answer.  Then, morning sickness hit, and I ate almost nothing. A couple of tangerines a day, and some water.  Sometimes some nuts or a little other fruit. I was just so nauseated all the time that nothing but tangerines even appealed to me.  Finally, one day Vern found me in the kitchen on the verge of tears, and folded me into his arms. And I cried. And as I cried, I realized I was so, so hungry. And thirsty. All I wanted was food and drink. And I didn't feel like I could get any of it down.

It was shortly after that that I went back to cooked foods, albeit gluten-free.  GF seemed to allay most of my hypoglycemia and thyroid issues, and I had such a good time in the kitchen, figuring out how to cook with GF flours and coconut milk, still nearly all vegetarian, but loving pancakes and muffins, brown rice and crackers (and cheese). I still think Henry was built mostly on rice crackers, cheese and vitamins. (And, I should be embarrassed to say, gf cookies and dark chocolate.)

Ever since returning to cooked foods, I have struggled with my health and weight.  I gained twenty pounds in that first month of eating cooked food. And another fifty with the pregnancy. I've only come down about fifteen pounds from my immediate post-partum weight of more than three years ago. I'm much stronger (a fair bit of that shift has been recompositioning as I've spent time in the gym), but I still have so far to go. I've felt, over and over, that I really should go back to mostly or all raw, and I think the time is coming for it.  It's time to see what God's way of eating can do for me for longer than three months.  The last time we went raw, we started just before Thanksgiving. By mid-February, when I returned to cooked foods, I was just under 160 lbs, within five pounds of my all-time adult low, and one pants size away from my beloved size 12 corduroys. And I felt so, so good. It's time to get healthy again . . . whatever the scale ends up saying as I get back to getting healthy, and adding strength, too.

Father, I'm ready for change. I'm ready to do this . . . we designed our kitchen for a raw vegan life, and I'm ready to use it that way. Show me how much to do, how far to go, what you would have me feed my family, and how to get started again. Show me what to clear out of my house, whether physical stuff or spiritual. Renew our minds continually, so we have the knowledge to fulfill Your desires for us. My children need this healing, too; they have health needs that exercise alone won't cure. Show me what they need to be fed, how they need to be fed, so they can thrive, growing into the powerful and humble servants You are calling them to be. And thank you so much for showing me that breaking free and beginning change doesn't mean I won't have to deal with the consequences of my old life for quite a while, and for letting me know that You will walk with me, talk with me, and show me how to handle each resurgence in the best way, in a healthy way. I love you, God of mine, and I can't wait to know You better, and to feel like myself again. In Jesus' name, amen!