God IS Good, and He will draw us to Him

Journal entry of 25 August 2014

So, I've been saying all day today that I'm going to write this. So, I'm writing it. (Happy, God? . . . Good. lol)

Last night, I attended the first night of the Kingdom Culture event at Hidden Valley Worship Center. HVWC is the laboratory where the Lord taught me who He truly is . . . the things I've read so far in the first four Lectures on Faith are all familiar to me because of what I've heard preached in this place. This is the church where I received the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, when a visiting pastor laid hands on me, prayed over me (including putting into words some things I was experiencing at that very time that I hadn't yet been able to put into words) and then said, "Be filled!" This church has been the place where I can come before the Lord and pray and worship without thought for what anyone will think, where I have been prayed over and healed, where I have been snatched from severe depression through the prayer of three incredible prayer warrior women. I've had experience after experience that has shown me that they operate in the Holy Spirit, according to the mind and will of God.

The worship portion of their services has always been super powerful in my life. From the very first service I attended, coming up on three years now, I have been filled with the Holy Ghost over and over as I've worshipped with them, in music, prayer and shouting praise. (Psalm 100)

Just over a week ago, I mentioned to some friends online I was feeling heavy-hearted. Well, you could definitely call it that. I had been brought down to absolute desperation, feeling so overwhelmed and powerless, so distant from my Lord. The love of my husband couldn't pull me out of it. During two of the days at the end of week before last, I cried out in desperation over and over, "Jesus, where is Your comfort? Where is the comfort You said You would send? Jesus . . . please . . . "

And I heard no answer.

Nothing.

So I held on, because that's all I could do . . . just hold on through the incredible darkness of that time. Too many little people depend on me for me to do anything else. I KNEW Jesus heard me. I had so much evidence, such an overwhelming preponderance of experience that He hears me. Always. I just didn't know why I was feeling the way I was, why the depression had come back with such a vicious vengeance, and why He wasn't banishing it when I cried out for relief, why I couldn't hear His answer.

A week ago yesterday (which was two Sundays ago), I went to the morning service at HVWC. It was the first time I had seen any of that part of my church family in more than two months, between my own LDS leadership calling me in, family visiting, our trip to Utah and further south for Denver's talks, etc., and oh, how I had missed the strengthening, the invigoration, the refreshing in the spirit I receive when I'm able to go and worship there. I got there late, missing every last bit of worship. But the sermon was like it was designed wholly for me--even down to one point where Pastor Chris really got his preach on, leaving his notes, preaching according to the spirit for a few minutes, detailing exactly what I had been struggling with over the last few days, what had been running through my mind as recently as the early morning hours that very day as I struggled and journaled and wept.

After the service was over, I said hello to a couple of people, chatted for a minute, gathered my things up, and as I made my way down the aisle, I stopped to say hello to Sharlene, who has been such a blessing and good friend to me. Then Naomi walked over and said hello. We were joined by Donna, and as we stood there, Naomi looked at me and said,

"Would you like to pray with us for our county?"

I said, "Sure."

Then the four of us, Naomi on my right, Donna across from me, and Sharlene on my left, began to pray.

Naomi led, praying first. Then Sharlene. Then Donna. I knew I was there to add my faith and agreement to what they said, but wasn't moved to pray at all. It was beautiful prayer, and I felt so grateful to be part of it. When Donna finished, there was a pause, and then Naomi began praying again. For me. Totally unexpected. As Naomi began her prayer, she said "God, I just pray protection over Annalea," and I felt incredible heat on the crown of my head, as if a high-wattage heat lamp had been turned onto me, as though Jesus came and laid His hands on my head, the strength of His presence radiating steadily down throughout me as the praying continued.

Naomi reached out and put her hand on my right shoulder, continuing to pray. She declared peace and healing and strength, and so many other things. The Holy Spirit grew and grew, and the love of Christ filled me and overflowed. I began to tremble, first my throat, then my hands, then my legs, as Naomi continued to pray healing and restoration over things that I had been struggling with, things she had absolutely no way of knowing anything about. (I hadn't seen or talked to her in two months--nor with with Sharlene and Donna.) Sharlene reached out and put her hand on my left shoulder, praying next. She prayed over different aspects of my struggle, releasing in my heart healing and forgiveness and so much more that the Spirit placed on her heart to pray for me. And the love of the Lord grew and grew within me and my own gratitude grew exponentially. My bff LeAnne came up behind me and put both hands on my back. Donna reached out and put her hand on the top of my bowed head as she then prayed in turn, again, praying words that she had no way of knowing I needed, but that addressed yet more aspects of my struggle, and that ushered in yet more of the healing and comfort for which I had cried out in the depth of my despair.

The desire to fall to my knees, and then upon my face, was nearly overwhelming. I was kept standing only because I was circled about by these women, whose hands supported and steadied me. I was so full . . . and I was healed. The darkness, gone. I was once again filled with the presence of my Jesus, and I knew that He answered my cries as soon as He could; that for whatever reason, my body and spirit had been weakened to the point where I couldn't receive on my own what He needed to give me, and so He gathered these women together to do the work I needed mortals to do, to bridge the gap I was too weak to cross, to be His hands and His mouth for me. And I broke down completely, sobbing at the incomprehensible mercy and grace and love that Jesus extends to us . . . that He extends to me. That He would save me, who am so miserably error-prone. Who would let my own devotions slide, amongst the busyness and demands of life, to the point where the enemy could isolate me, and, like a circling lion, prepare to devour me. I had been encircled about with the chains of hell--of separation from God--and I was set free, covered instead in His loving presence.

Yesterday evening, a week later, I worshipped in that same sanctuary. I was having a wonderful worship experience, full of so much joy and rejoicing. Then they began to sing "I'm a Lover of Your Presence," and LeAnne (who was on the worship team) began to sing. (If you can, go start that playing while you read the rest of this.)

"Let this be a sacrifice
let me dedicate my life
to worship You

Let this be a sacrifice
let me dedicate my life
to worship You"

Suddenly something broke open in my chest, and I started to sob. The song went on:

"I'm a lover of Your presence
I'm a lover of Your presence
I'm a lover of Your presence"

The feelings of gratitude, humility, of utter helplessness in the face of my situation, and then being snatched from it by the Lord's own good pleasure came rushing back, and I could finally fall to my knees for that, and pray. And the song continued:

"A passion's stirring deep inside,
You're all that really satisfies;
we worship You"

"We're lovers of Your presence
We're lovers of Your presence
We're lovers of Your presence
And it's all we want to be,
it's all we want to be"

And then kneeling wasn't enough. The enormity of what Jesus had done for me, of the price He paid to gain the victory He had won, the sweetness of fruit of it in my life, a sweetness above all that is sweet, sent me to my face, once again crying out, but this time in love and praise and utter amazement at the extravagant riches of His love poured out for me.

"I was made for love,
I was made for love,
I was made for loving You
I know that I was made for love,
I was made for love,
and I was made for
Loving You"

I don't think I've ever been more vulnerable, or more safe, than I was in those minutes, as I sobbed out my gratitude and my love for Yeshua, my Jesus, my Beloved God. It wasn't a performance, a demonstration for anyone to see. I wasn't doing anything that isn't well-known in that place during worship. That sanctuary truly IS a sanctuary, where the Holy Spirit directs all things.

Today, I now know just a little of what Denver feels like when he says, "I'd really rather NOT be doing this." I'd never consider sharing something like this in a forum as public as this. One-on-one, when prompted, no problem. But this honestly makes me (the written word over-sharer) a little antsy. I'm sharing these things with the desire in my heart that it will touch someone, and open a heart to be touched by the Living God more than ever before. The things that happen in the scriptures when the presence of an omnipotent God collides with mortal flesh are accurate. It's not an overly dramatic culture, or a different cultural expression of spiritual experiences. The Lamanites weren't a more sensitive genetic strain, prone to to fainting spells.

When God shows up, people fall down.

They pass out.

They speak in tongues and prophesy.

Injuries--physical and spiritual--are healed.

People fall to their knees, or upon their faces, and rise up new creatures.

Our bodies are marvelous instruments. When we use them in our worship, it allows the Lord to reach us in ways He simply cannot if we're sitting passively, just listening, or singing half-heartedly, or singing to anyone else besides Him. Our bodies are not only megaphones for the Holy Ghost, but they amplify our own ability to express ourselves before Jesus and reach out for Him.

God bless you all, as He has blessed me, a stubborn and prideful, lazy and foolish girl.

About that path . . .

"I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.  When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble." -Proverbs 4:11-12 ESV

David taught Solomon that his steps would be sure and strong, that he would find solid solid footholds where he went. I had always assumed the path along which God would grant that travel looked a lot like this:




But reading this morning, I realized that there was no guarantee of level ground or mild weather in those verses . . . that sometimes the path our Lord leads us over looks like this:


Father of Heaven and Earth, I trust You. When You speak, I choose to BELIEVE what You have said above ALL ELSE. Above the wisdom of men, above traditions, above what my own eyes and flesh and intellect may assert. When You say my steps will not be hampered and I will not stumble, I will step out boldly, in full confidence in Your Word! You ARE the God Who Provides, the God Who Heals, the God Who is Faithful. You are Truth, Love and Light! I rejoice that faith is such an unconditional thing, that I need not second-guess or labor long and hard to decide whether or not You are Trustworthy. When I seek You, You ARE found. When I dive into Your Word, You feed my soul. When I turn my heart and mind to You, You do not leave me with deception and emptiness, but fill me with pure knowledge that enlarges my soul and fills it with faith, hope, and love. Lord, lead me today, I pray with all earnestness of heart. Whatever You have in Your heart for me, I will accept, for You are the Lord God Almighty . . . the One who desires nothing more than true closeness with me, with each of Your children. You long to care for us, to bless and strengthen us; and Lord, I accept whatever You have before me, today. I choose to lay my life down for those You have placed in my care, for those I am called to love, and to lead to freedom in Christ, in the name of Him Who I love every bit as much as You, my wonderful Jesus. Amen!

Feeling Worn?

I can't tell you the number of times I've listened to people talk about the ideas and thoughts that pop into their heads, and that are wonderful things, or beautiful promises, that apply directly to their circumstance, to their recent prayers . . . but they dismiss it as their own thoughts, even while their hearts are breaking because they don't feel they ever hear God.

That is unbelief.

I lived there for a long, long time (like two decades), so I feel like I can speak with some authority. ;o)

If it's GOOD, it is of God. Jesus said so (through Mormon), and I believe Him.

Moroni, recording what his father Mormon preached, wrote:
Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. ~Moroni 7:12-13
This song came on Spotify today as I was listening, and it became my prayer . . . it was my heart's cry yesterday, and today, as I took these words for my own and sent them heavenward, Jesus answered. With an outpouring of love and warmth and the familiar wonder of His presence, I heard in my mind and heart, infused with the unmistakable feel of His smile: "That's what I'm for, beloved. That's why I AM."

Spring Will Prove

I went out this evening and sat for a few minutes in the quiet of the van, stuffing the shopping bags back into their little pouches and folding the ones that didn't stuff so they'd all fit into one bag. It was warm, and the quiet felt velvety in my ears.

Looking out over the yard, I watched the white pines sway in the breeze, gratefully soaked in the residual heat collected by the dark green metal during the brief sunshine today, and yet felt overwhelmed. There's so much to do, so much to do to finish the house in time to finalize the mortgage on schedule, in addition to the heavy load I carry as a wife, mother, homemaker and homeschooler, and the tears came back. I thought of the house, upstairs, of the clutter partying on every flat surface and the dust and dog hair that collects in the corners faster than I've ever seen, anywhere, in my entire life.  My gaze fell on my little Japanese maple, and I remembered planting iris rhizomes from my mother-in-law last spring. 

And God whispered to me, "Go look at it."

I left the soft warmth of the van and walked through the crisp breeze toward my tree. When I drew close, I could see them . . . the tiny beginnings of this year's iris that might (just might) bloom this year. Not all of them survived the transplanting, but there are quite a few new shoots coming up around the base of the tree.


While I stood, looking, I found a few roots that had been pulled up by deer, or cats, or frost heave. Most were mushy and empty, but one felt heavy when I touched it. Picking it up, I found it wasn't completely soft--one end was firm and smooth, with two tiny sprouts starting from it: one root-colored, and one leaf-colored.

I began pulling at the soil with my fingers, and made a shallow trench. Setting it in place, I thought to myself that while the odds weren't all that great, it now had a chance. Irises are tough critters.


I stood and looked at the ground under the tree, and saw the brambles and weeds that were beginning to take over the area we'd carefully cleared, and felt the immensity of the work before me begin to descend once again. I turned away, back towards the house, the discouragement pulling at every step.

Once again, my eyes fell on another gift: a hydrangea that Vern & the children gave me last Mother's Day. It has looked pretty sad all winter, and we wondered if it had made it. God said, "Go look at it."

I walked up to the wire enclosure we put around it to keep the chickens off, and looked down at the uninspiring rags of last year's growth, wondering what I'd see. 

And then, I saw.


Just barely, as they weren't that visible from the top. Little buds, pushing up from the base of the hydrangea amongst the old branches.


And then, looking closer, I saw that those old branches weren't all dead after all . . . some of them were showing green underneath the papery bark, for as the branches swelled and grew inside of it, the dried and brittle covering split. God whispered, "I will make it grow." And I knew it would be beautiful again . . . gloriously so.


As I looked at the rest of the plant, wondering how much had survived, God whispered again, this time in a complete thought without words, that we would need to let the plant grow and bud and leaf out a little, to see what was yet quick, and what was dead. We needed to let that new life prove itself by its growth.

And then would come the pruning.

I stood there, seeing the ravages of winter, and the damage the new growth had done to the protective but unyielding sheathing on what had survived. I saw the upper branches, gnarled and straw-like that would most likely fall under the shears in a few weeks, and God whispered that I was seeing myself.


I've been through a hard wintry season in  my life. A season of trying, and testing. A season that has threatened everything I have ever believed, ever trusted, everything I thought I knew. And now that Spring is returning, one lovely moment and one Spring rainstorm at a time, I'm seeing new growth budding from the parts of me proven through my circumstances . . . the very innermost heart where God lives.


Through that wintry season, He was the Master Gardener. And now, as Spring returns and His plans are coming to life in me, the pruning will come . . . once the dead and dying wreckage can clearly be distinguished from the vital, new, living creature in Christ that He has made me.

It's alternately nerve-wracking and exhilarating. Sometimes I'm pretty sure I know what is good, and what has survived . . . but I'm not always right.

When I came back with my camera, to better share this with you, He showed me the branches of my little Japanese maple, showing the same symbolic pattern as the hydrangea.



Sometimes it's proving to be the larger, more impressive branches that have died back, while the smaller, more tender branches survived.


It's kind of a tangle, really. But this I know: my God isn't just the Good Shepherd, He is the Master Gardener, and He knows a true branch when He sees one. I can trust Him, for even though He will ask for things I have long loved, or in which I have found temporary comfort, He will not ask me to relinquish anything that I truly need to make it back to Him. 


And in that, I rejoice. 


Parenting: *don't* do it afraid.

I was recently asked how my parenting has changed over the last couple of years. Here are some 'ponderings' on that.

I think the biggest change, the fundamental change that has affecting my parenting the most, is I'm no longer afraid. I'm not afraid of my children not learning to obey, because I know the power of Jesus' love. I'm not afraid of bad things happening to them, because I trust them to God. (I'm still CAREFUL--I just don't freak out (much) anymore. I still have a pretty major thing about my kids in high places or near precipices.) Because I'm so much more accustomed to the fact that God's love for me is wildly generous and totally unconditional, I don't worry about what anyone else thinks. I just treat my children as best I know how--as equal individuals. Very much as I wish to be treated. Honestly. Openly. And able to make my own decisions.

They do stand in a position of lesser authority and responsibility in some ways in my home, but I do my best to treat them as I want to be treated, and to not "baby" or patronize them. I firmly believe they are able to do good things, to step up to the opportunity of making a choice, and making a GREAT one. My 5 1/2 year old has taught me the most about this, because my "old" way of doing things UTTERLY DID NOT WORK with him. Totally. Like, "it no workie" kind of total failure. (In the comic below, my 5yo is Dilbert, on the left. I'm on the right. And yes, I've had my touchy & defensive moments. lol I'm better now, though. Praise God!)


He is such a fun, personality-filled little guy. He LOVES to laugh, and be just really good friends. He loves me incredibly, and I've learned a lot about love from him. About how love doesn't coerce. Or boss others around heavy-handedly. How love appeals to the love in the other person, and lets their conscience work at its full ability, instead of trying to convict of wrongdoing or manipulate.

I have learned to trust the innate goodness in my children. To see them as complete, whole people, who honestly want to do what's right, and look to me for example and support. But most of all: I try to treat my children the way that Jesus treats me. I keep them from physical harm, feed & clothe them, and do those fundamental things. But all of the "technique" and "style" stuff that people usually argue over is really simple: I follow Jesus' lead with me.

The short (and ultimate) answer is get to know Jesus. Let Him be a real, full, complete person to you. Abandon every construct and preconception about Who He is, and how He works, and let Him reveal Himself to you however He sees fit, and teach you using whatever means He chooses. He wants to teach you even more than you want to learn! He wants to lead you on an amazing romance adventure of epic proportions . . . to sweep you along, to take your breath away, to show you His love in a measure and fullness you've never even imagined. Being in love with Jesus is like a crush, the early stages of getting to know someone you're falling hard for. You think about them. A lot. You want to talk to them, listen to them. You want to watch their face, learn their character and personality. You stay up all night talking to them, largely unconcerned for the consequences, because you can't imagine doing anything else.

But don't worry if you don't feel that way right now. It grows as you let Jesus come into your life, and the amazing, beautiful friendship with Him unfolds. The more you get to know Him, the more you can't help longing for His company, for hearing from Him. And the more you know Him, the more you will know how to really and truly love and serve the people in your life.

Know thou the Lord! :o) As parents, so much in blessing and joy lay ahead as we do.