25 April 2016

The One Thing

For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. ~1 Corinthians 13:9-12 NKJV 
We don't see the whole picture. We don't hear the whole picture. And we can't see it all in the spirit.

I heard a Kris Vallotton story in church yesterday that really struck me:

Some time ago several of us traveled to a conference where they were training people how to prophesy. With about 70 people in the room, we were all prophesying to a woman in the front of the room. We completed the ten prophecies allowed in the prophetic exercise, and then began to judge the words given to the woman. Suddenly, a man in the back of the room stood to his feet and said, “You have a yellow shirt on!” 
Immediately the woman fell to the ground, crying hysterically. The man continued to prophesy, saying things like, “The sun is yellow…the moon is yellow,” and so on. When the woman finally regained her composure, the leader of the class asked her what the word meant to her. 
She explained, “I have a son who is autistic and I told the Lord today, ‘If You are going to heal my son, have someone tell me that I have on a yellow shirt….’” 
The man who delivered this prophetic word stepped out of bounds and tried to give the woman an interpretation of the color yellow. Although the Holy Spirit used the word powerfully in the woman’s life, the entire prophetic word was simply, “you have a yellow shirt on”. 
When God stops speaking, we should too! People who are prophesying often feel pressure to give an interpretation for every prophecy they have, particularly when the prophetic word seems ambiguous or even silly. It is astounding what some people think their prophetic words mean! The preceding is a profound example of a powerful prophetic word that was misinterpreted by the person who delivered it. Remember, we don’t have to be profound to be powerful.
But this story came home to me even more powerfully this morning as I read the story of a woman who had left Mormonism as she earnestly pursued the love of God. Her journey is very similar to mine, and yet distinctly different, as God led her through rejecting a couple of things that He specifically showed me I should keep believing. Like the young man who heard something that made absolutely NO sense to what his eyes saw in the natural, I had some choices to make this morning, as two women who love and follow Him, fully confident of His voice in their lives, have had two very contradictory experiences. I could question whether I (or the woman whose story I read) was really hearing God. I could question whether or not there is a God. Or, I could think of the yellow shirt story that had sunk deep into my heart, and wonder at what I'll see when that which is perfect has come and I see fully and completely.

Dan Mohler said something I'll never forget:
"If your personal belief doesn't change the big picture, don't fight over it!"
The differences between this woman and I don't change the big picture. These are facets and pieces of the paradigms we each work from that God is working on, bit by bit and piece by piece as we all are seeing in part and prophesying in part. And I PRAISE GOD for the mercy and grace that means not "getting it right" in these other things doesn't have to change the fact that we are fully covered and given true empowerment to work out the One Thing that is most important, most vital of all:

Becoming one with Jesus as He is one with the Father.

And as we work out that One Thing, eventually every last facet of our paradigms that are not in perfect alignment with God will come into our path and God will teach us, drawing us closer to Himself all the while.

God, I'm so glad you know my heart, because even with all of the words I continue to use to tell you how wonderful you are, how much I adore you, and how much I treasure the things you teach me and the grace in which you allow me to operate, words really do fail. Thank you for the freedom to struggle, instead of existing in a struggle to be free. Thank you for the Body of Christ, for scripture, for Holy Spirit, for Jesus, and for Yourself. Thank you for the incredible example of unity, oneness and love that exists in the godhead, and for your continuous entreaty to come and be one with you. Thank you for the example of that unity that exists in my church family, so beautiful to me. And thank you, most of all, that you continue to use me. That you continue to teach me as I wrestle through things so I can then impart them to others who are willing to receive, and save them the heartache that those lessons cost me. I love giving the body of Christ a leg up from my own back. Thank you for the gift of articulation that allows me to communicate those lessons in ways that are meaningful to those who hear me. Thank you for being such a generous and loving One, and for the victory and peace that comes when I stand on your word, regardless of whether that leads me over solid rock, a stormy sea, or into thin air. In Jesus' name, I most lovingly pray, amen.

24 April 2016

What do you expect?

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces. Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, 
‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
and he will prepare your way before you.’
~Matthew 11:7-10 NLT
 I've often wondered at this passage, because it's so plain. The Jews didn't expect John the Baptist to look or act or sound they way he actually did. They thought they had everything correct, and so they expected John to appear within the priestly class, or in the government. True to the flesh, they expected John to be pleasing and socially acceptable. From Jesus' reference to the swaying reed, it seems the Jewish leadership also expected John to be pliable and subject to their influence and instruction.

Instead, they got an "uncivilized" man. A wild man in the wilderness. Someone who spoke things no one wanted to hear, who sounded crazy, whose appearance wasn't refined or fashionable, and who, in my understanding, had little patience for the ways in which the scribes and Pharisees had hedged up the way (Matthew 23:13).

How many of us have built up expectations about how God will fulfill various prophecies? Or have firmly-set ideas of what a prophet looks like, or acts like, or even believes? How many times do we reject the words God is desperately trying to give us, the ways He is earnestly trying to reach us, because we are prejudiced against the messenger? Oh, for the things I rejected, I missed entirely, because they didn't fit my "weak reed" expectation.

Father God, open my mind and heart to see You in places I haven't yet expected. Continue to dismantle my expectations and constructs and replace them with truth from Your word, made clear and carried into my heart by Your Spirit. Thank You for being the ultimate iconoclast, Father, and for the way that Your love rushes in to fill every space when the molds are broken, in Jesus' name, Amen.

23 April 2016

The Resort of Prayer

Psalm 109:4 "In return for my love they are my adversaries, but I resort to prayer."

This verse jumped off the screen at me today, as it describes so clearly some of my experiences in my faith transition over the last few years. It struck at my heart because I know the feeling David sings about here, and I've also been driven to prayer for those who have returned fear, rejection, and even some anger for many years' of love and friendship because I now wear the Mormon scarlet letter for "apostasy". I recognize that, unless God gives me specific words in a specific situation, there's not much I can say to change the way I'm perceived: lost, fallen, deceived and not to be trusted in spiritual things.

And so, I pray.

I pray because the Lord of Hosts penetrated my surety, showed me the sand upon which I had built my life, and then offered me His endless love and forgiveness as a safe space in which to learn. And if He can do it for me, He can do it for anyone.

And I mean anyone.

Heavenly Father, my heart cries out for ALL those who earnestly seek You. Let them find You. Soften hearts and minds as Your Holy Spirit hovers over them. Break down fear and suspicion and judgement and prejudice, filling that space with the ultimate comfort of Your love. Bring across their paths and into their lives believers who will generously pour Your scandalous grace over their lives, and let the humble followers of Christ find Him and the everlasting life and joy that is promised to all believers, here and now. In Jesus' name, amen.

21 April 2016

I Will Never Harm You

"After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, 8 David came out and shouted after him, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him.

9 Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? 10 This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the Lord’s anointed one.’ 11 Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me.

12 “May the Lord judge between us. Perhaps the Lord will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you." ~1 Samuel 24:7-12

No matter what Saul believed or did, David would not partner with the spirit of offense. He would never step into the reality Saul chose while under oppression or consumed with fear or hatred. David's blade was sharp enough to part fabric--probably linen--without pulling on it. Linen is an incredibly strong fiber. Odds are Saul's hem was finely woven fabric of tightly-spun fibers, making it incredibly durable and therefore even more difficult to cut. David wasn't sawing away at that hem while Saul squatted in the cave. He probably lifted a corner of Saul's robe and ran his blade through the fabric hanging from his hand. I've never encountered a blade that sharp--and it gives completely new meaning to the word of God that divides bone and marrow. Odds are David could have killed Saul so quickly with a blade like that that Saul would have hardly known what hit him.

God has been showing me, nearly every day, the tremendous value of His manner of warfare: of returning love for anger, kindness for cruelty, gentleness for harshness. When presented with the healing power of the love of God, wrath withers and blows away like ashes on Holy Spirit's breath. For, when the Lord of Hosts goes to war, He heals. When He retakes territory, He saves souls. The answer is never to return violence for violence, but to offer the world-changing love of Jesus Christ through the presence of His Spirit in us. And even if the one in front of us chooses to still harbor wrath, the flow of the love of God through us softens the blow, healing and comforting us.

Now, don't get me wrong. In this world we will have tribulation. We'll meet violence, harshness, cruelty and anger. And sometimes they will hurt. A lot. But what we allow to flow from our hearts and mouths when those things come against us will determine whether we are blessed or cursed by the encounter--as well as the blessing or cursing offered to everyone around us.

Heavenly Father, I love that Your ways turn all of our worldly wisdom on its head, leaving me astounded and filled with wonder at the miraculous scandal of Your way of doing things. Show me more and more how You approach things, Father, and change my heart day by day to be more like Yours, more like Jesus'. Let me stay in communion and fellowship with You in the Holy of Holies in my heart, that place designed to only be filled by God; the place from whence comes the hunger that can only be satisfied by You. And let this hunger be catching, Father. Let it spread more steadily than the enemy's illnesses, more persistently than the cold that has been gripping our region. And let those who feel this deep hunger for You find You, and be so filled to overflowing that nothing will ever be the same. In Jesus' name, amen.

20 April 2016

Eyes to See

At this moment, I'm feeling grateful for a long list of things: husband, family, air conditioning that means I could cook some astonishingly yummy soup for dinner (and even eat some!) without roasting to death upstairs under this green metal roof of ours. But most of all, right at this moment, I'm grateful for eyes to see.

"But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear." ~Matthew 13:16 NLT

When I'm tuned into Jesus and looking for communication from Him, He's EVERYWHERE. I remember talking with someone a couple of months ago at church; she was concerned about God's provision. Tears were flowing, and she asked, "Where'd that kleenex go?" Immediately, she had two boxes presented to her, one from each side. Even in that little detail, her Abba wanted her to know that He was ready and eager to provide for her every need--even down to double the amount of tissues she needed in that moment.

Another time, a few weeks before, I was talking with someone else who was feeling overwhelmed. We prayed, and as she gathered up her things to leave the sanctuary, she kept dropping things. As soon as she'd pick one thing up, something else would slip from her arms. I couldn't help but ask her right then if she could see what God was saying in that moment: she was trying to hold on to too much, trying to do too much. It was time to let go of some things and let God take care of them.

Every time I turn around, if I have eyes to see and ears to hear, I receive from my God. His words truly do never cease--not just because they're eternal and never die, but through His unlimited and infinite nature, He is constantly communicating with us. There isn't a moment that goes by that our God isn't communicating to us in a thousand ways. All we have to do is tune in, believing He is speaking to us, and ready to hear Him. He conversed with Cain as Abel's blood cried from the ground. He'll talk to you, right now. No doubt about it.

Father God, I can't praise You enough for the unfailing way You pursue Your children. Jesus, I can't glorify You enough for the astounding work You have finished that gives You the right to be where I am, always touching my life, always entreating, always pursuing. And I'm so grateful for Holy Spirit that connects us all seamlessly and empowers us to receive so so much. I pray for undeniable encounters with Your love for those who need You so desperately. Touch their hearts, and change their perspectives forever for having been filled with the reality of who You are. I love you, so much. Thank You, thank You, in Your name. Amen.

06 April 2016

It's about Relationship.

I first read this article not long after I had learned who Chris Tomlin is, and got such a kick out of getting that joke. :) (And if you haven't read it, do take the 120 seconds and do so.)

In all seriousness, though, that post is dead on. There is no predestined "ONE". When I chose, the man I choose became "MY ONE", and there's nothing that has blessed my life more, in more ways, than the constant pursuit of one-ness with my husband. He is my One--because I chose him. And because he chose me.

This time through this post, this quote jumped out at me:
""God’s plan is for us to be made more holy, more like Christ… not marry a certain person. (This advice was also used when I asked what college God wanted me to go to, accompanied I think by, “God doesn’t want you to be an idiot, so go somewhere you will learn.”)"
As I grew up and went to college and got married and stuff, I was so pleased with myself for picking "THE college" God wanted me to attend, etc. My entire life was neatly laid out in "rights" and "wrongs", and it was my job to do what my CTR ring reminded me: "CHOOSE THE RIGHT". It was a game of "What does God want me to choose?", instead of "How would God want me to love?"

Enter babies and moving and life and adulting. Oy vey. I kept desperately searching for the "right" thing to do, so I could be doing God's will and be truly happy.

That didn't work out so well.

You see, it was always my fault for not getting it right.

I remember folding laundry one day in 2006, more miserable than I think I've ever been in my whole life. I couldn't figure it out . . . I was doing everything RIGHT. Or, at least everything I knew to do. I even begged Heaven, in a moment of less-than-ideally-stoic "weakness": "What am I doing wrong??? Why am I not happy???"

The answer didn't make sense for many years, but it came so clearly, so solidly, yet more gently than I'd heard words spoken, I think, in my entire life:
"Maybe it's not your fault".
That simply didn't compute--the idea that I shouldn't blame myself for being unhappy, that there wasn't a sin I could correct and then unlock heaven, made no sense to me. According to my thinking, I should've been able to identify what I was doing wrong, fix it, and then I could feel the love of God again, could receive the blessings He promised me of a happy home and children that love Him.

But now, I can see it wasn't about getting it right, at all. It really wasn't my fault--meaning I couldn't blame my own wrongDOING for being so unhappy. I was rejecting what God was always willing to bless me with--His love and His spirit--that would have lifted me out of my circumstance and made me more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus.

It's not about getting it "right". It's all about getting to know Jesus, about building relationship with Him, and learning to be filled with His love so we can lavish it on others.

That is so liberating, so empowering. Life isn't some crazy game where we are matched up against God to see how much we can get right.

It's about learning to have His heart.

05 April 2016

Faith = Appearing Completely Nuts

Matthew 14:

25 Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed.

27 Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”

29 And Jesus said, “Come.”

Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!”

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind settled down.

33 Then those in the boat worshipped Jesus and said, “You must be God’s Son!”

There's so much I've learned from this story, and much I still have to learn. Today, though, God has had me thinking about how absolutely bonkers Peter must have looked, climbing out of that boat into the tempest. Can you imagine what some of the other disciples might've been saying?

"Man, that Peter. He's always been a hothead. It's sad he's gotta go this way, though."

"I knew his passion would get him into trouble one day, but I never dreamed it'd be suicide . . . "

Then shouting--or in desperate whisper in his ear--from someone he loved, their bond forged over many crazy days following Jesus: "Peter! Don't, man! WHAT IN THE HELL ARE YOU DOING????? Don't! Don't! DON'T!!!", grabbing at his clothing, trying to keep him from certain death.

Odds are there were others, though, who met his eye and knew what he knew: that was their Yeshua calling, and it would be okay.

Peter heeded the voice of the One he loved--the One whose voice he knew so well. A ghost couldn't speak with the Lord's voice, and when Peter heard "Come", he knew who it was. No demon could mimic the way that voice pierced his soul, or the love that resounded in the single syllable.

A friend recently posted on facebook something incredibly wise from his wife:

"You cannot build God's reputation if you aren't willing to ruin yours".

Everything He calls me to do flies in the face of worldly wisdom. "You won't get sick," He told me, when the first of my children headed into a series of colds and flus a month ago. And so, when my throat aches or I cough a few times, or I get that tired feeling that usually indicates getting sick, I don't believe what my flesh is telling me. I'm standing on the word of God. He said; and so I will walk on that water. And there are many other ways He's calling me into--I know how nuts they sound to the flesh, especially the wisdom in which I was raised--and yet how soundly scriptural they are. We have been taught our whole lives "What you see is what you get", but God says to believe what He says that is unseen over that which our eyes can show us, because what is unseen is that which is eternal.

Father God, keep calling me. I'm so grateful you will, and want to add my encouragement and willingness to your voice. Keep on keeping me. Keep on challenging me. And keep teaching me. I love you, and I love that with you, my heart is utterly and completely and totally safe. Always. Show me more, God. Teach me more. And let me find you in more and more places in my life, and pour out into others' lives what you have lavished on me, in Jesus' name, amen.

02 April 2016

Guest Post Series: Religion vs. Relationship

"Jesus didn't go to the cross to start a religion, He went to the cross to end religion. He removed any and all hinderances from us being in perfect relation to our Father and the family of God. 

The world says, "religion is a crutch." They are right. Trying to obey all the rules so we can have more favor or love from God is a crutch, because we can't do it. So if we fail we have an excuse, "well I'm just a sinner saved by grace." And many other religious sayings that sound nice but are not Truth. 

When we come into relationship with the King of Kings we are no longer a sinner saved by grace, we are now a son of the Most High saved by grace. Jesus made us brand new and gave us everything needed to walk free from sin and the lies of hell. 

I was literally in bondage to pretty much every addiction their is for 13yrs. I didn't become a different person 7yrs ago, that old person is DEAD and I'm a BRAND NEW person. I am 100% free from every addiction. It's ALL grace and Jesus died for me and as me so I could live for Him and empowered by Him here on earth. 

When we see God as a list of rules that when we obey we are loved, we are saying we don't need what Jesus did we can do it on our own. That's a crutch, because when we fail we lean on it with wrong mindsets about our unworthiness. But there is Good News! What Jesus did on the cross for us reveals our worth and receiving Him and His finished work empowers us to walk as a brand new person free from hells influence in our life. 

He heals people that have to use crutches. He makes them completely whole in mind, body, soul, and spirit. That's what salvation is. Leaning on our works is a crutch. Knowing Him through an intimate relationship and hosting His presence as a lifestyle heals anyone from the need of religious crutches, so they can walk in the reality of His grace,  fully healed,  and in right standing with the Father."