Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord! (Psalm 150:1,6 ESV)
When I heard this psalm shared recently, that last verse really stuck out to me . . . "everything that has breath". And I heard "ruach". The last verse then repeated in my heart:
"Let everything filled with the Holy Spirit praise the Lord!"
All Creation is filled with the Spirit of God . . . as Jesus told the Pharisees in Luke 19:40, if He shushed the people's praise, the very rocks would cry out to Him.

And I love that praise, in this psalm, is an injunction in command form: "Praise the Lord!"

Lord God of Heaven, You are the joy of my life, and You radiate all around me, both inward and outward, permeating all things with Your Goodness, Mercy and Grace. Thank You, so much! And thank You for the ease of finding You in Your Word. When I start to get overwhelmed with the idea of the sheer VOLUME of scripture before me, not sure where to start, I love that I can remember I just have to open the book, and I will find YOU. I love that it truly IS my joy to say "Your will, Your way", and I pray all of Your children can catch that vision, can feel the joy of Your presence, learn to rest in Your kindness, and be drawn inexorably into Your embrace where they will find their deepest needs filled, their captivity broken forever, and their hearts given rest, in the beautiful name of Jesus, Who I will praise all my days, amen.

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.

Praise: Proclaiming the Obvious

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" Isa 52:7

Why on earth would Zion--those of one heart and one mind, who know the Lord already--need someone to tell her "Thy God reigneth"?

Good question.

Why say the obvious? Why repeat what has been said before in scripture so many times? Why do what is foolish in our culture, but encouraged in scripture?

All throughout scripture, people who definitely "knew better" repeat themselves at key points. (Please forgive me for not quoting them here . . . this post is being eked out in just a few spare moments today. But that gives you a chance to notice these as you study further in all of scripture.) The practice of praise (i.e. telling God what He already knows about Himself, and proclaiming it to others who mostly already know it, too) is a lost art in the LDS tradition. And yet, as I have begun to learn how to praise--how to confess God's glory, strength, majesty, mercy, grace, love, justice, abundant generosity, and a thousand other things--I have been blessed in rich ways. There is power in praise, in speaking into life within your own mind the truth that exists elsewhere, that shifts the spiritual atmosphere and opens our hearts and minds to the glory and mind of God.

So, go ahead and try it sometime. Try telling God what He already knows about Himself, and see what happens to your own heart, your own spirit. And if you have the Holy Spirit with you in power, then watch out . . . you'll feel like you can go on forever, and there are few things as beautiful or sweet to the soul.

Father in Heaven, I glory in You! For You are faithful, always; Your Son leads me through my life, teaches me Your ways, and blesses and protect me as soon as I'm willing to let Him. You work in mysterious ways, that are made plain to those who love and follow You. You are generous and kind, eager to receive us into Your presence. I praise you for Jesus, and His willing sacrifice. Jesus, you are Good, You are Love, You are Light, You are Truth! You bless me beyond all measure and understanding, and You never leave me desolate when I cry out to You. You are the God who heals, the God of Restoration, the Finder of all that is Lost, the God of All Supply. You are my hope, my strength, my joy, my forgiveness. You are Mercy, You are Joy, and You are Mine, as I am Yours. I love you, Jesus, and I love you, Father in Heaven. In Jesus' beloved name, amen!

You've Got the Wrong Guy!

Scripture: Ezekiel 9:9, 10 NLT

Then he said to me, “The sins of the people of Israel and Judah are very, very great. The entire land is full of murder; the city is filled with injustice. They are saying, ‘The Lord doesn’t see it! The Lord has abandoned the land!’ So I will not spare them or have any pity on them. I will fully repay them for all they have done.”

Observation:

Oh, the irony.  The injustice, indeed.  Just prior to this in Ezekiel's vision, the Lord shows him the idolatrous sins of the people, and how they've defiled the temple.  And then, with the temple filed with "detestable sin", they complain that the Lord isn't hanging around like a kicked dog, waiting for a chance to make up.

Application:

Is there anywhere in my life that I'm doing that? Attributing to God faults or shortcomings that are my own? Or that belong to my heritage or culture?

Yesterday, God led me carefully through a simple, everyday experience, so I could learn one very important thing . . . He really IS a jealous God, and he doesn't want me to be better friends with anyone else than I am with Him. ;o)  He taught me gently; just whispered a gentle check through the Holy Spirit when I wanted to turn to a mortal (and a pretty darn awesome one at that) for an answer to a dilemma.  I mulled over that for a bit, because even though I listened to the Holy Spirit, I still did a teensy bit of mental foot stomping.  And then, it hit me.  God was jealous! He didn't want me to be better friends with anyone else than I am with Him. :o)  I laughed long and loud at that . . . not derisively, but because it tickled my sense of humor to realize that the Lord God of Hosts sees me just as He sees the Israelites and Judah.  He doesn't want anyone to come before Him.  And that's pretty cool--definitely worthy of joyful laughter.

Prayer:

Father of mine, I glorify You for Your incredible, patient, endless love.  For Your faithfulness to me, while I'm learning to be faithful to You.  For Your awesome sense of humor, and the way You make me laugh as You show me more and more relationship all around me--between people, between Your people and Yourself, and best of all, between You and me.  And I love how it feels like You show me these things, in part, to see me laugh. :o)  Keep it up, my God, please!  I just want more of You, and to sing and laugh and walk with You all the day long.  Because You are Good.  So, so good! In Jesus' name, Amen. :o)


What God calls a "great musician".

Scripture: Amos 6:5

"You sing trivial songs to the sound of the harp and fancy yourselves to be great musicians like David."

Observation: In surrounding verses, the Lord God condemns the people for their shallow and flesh-pleasing lives.  But this one stood out to me the most: He dismisses their music, not on grounds of lack of skill or beauty, but because, unlike David, they do not worship.

Application: I have always loved music.  I have memorized and sung for as long as I can remember.  I've learned to play various instruments (only one very well), and have always found incredible joy and peace in music . . . singing hymns at the piano was what got me through the intensity of adolescence.  And I find it so telling that this musical hypocrisy is specifically called out as the Lord decrees judgements against the wealthy and powerful of Israel.  The Israelites are in trouble because they cheapen the glory of music and serve themselves with it. They say they are "great musicians" like one of the most faithful followers of God, when in reality they are selfish, foolish, shallow, and wicked.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite verses, Doctrine and Covenants 25:12.

For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.

Nowhere, but nowhere, in that verse is talent mentioned.  The only qualification for blessings to be poured out from heaven upon the heads of those singing to the Lord is righteousness.  I don't care if you can't carry a tune in a bucket--and neither does the Lord!

Prayer: Lord God of Israel, reach out to those with music in their souls, so they will find You, no matter where they are, or what their lives might look like right now.  Let them turn their musical passion towards You, and send the Holy Spirit in power into the hearts of those who hear them. My life has been so blessed--and sometimes saved--through music.  Please, reach out in power to those who have this gift, and bless them to turn it to Your name's glory. And let me use whatever gift I might have in serving You wherever I might be! In Jesus' name, so be it.  Amen.