Sunday, May 29, 2016

To Be On Fire



Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Acts 2:2-4


While in prayer this morning I was reminded of one of the students at our school. Allie is an observer. You could read that as a polite way to say tattletale and not be wrong but she is also an encourager. Allie, calls it like she sees it. One of her favorite expressions is, “he's (or she's) on fire.” Now Allie is a Southern child so hear that in your mind as “far” and hear it incredibly drawn out, “he's on faaarrr.” It's adorable. It is also her highest compliment. It means that the person in question is doing their best work, a quality that Allie admires.
This morning as I was praying to be more connected to the Holy Spirit, more yielded to His direction, I prayed, “Breathe on me. Set me on fire for You. I want to be on fire.” You can see, I'm sure, why Allie came to mind. My thought was that I want to be such a force for the Gospel, so clearly a child of God that it cannot be missed. I do not want to waste any of the time or talent that God has given me.

Isn't that what Allie is saying of her friends? She gives that compliment when she sees a friend trying hard, delivering their best result. That is what I want to do for God, sort of.

For children in school, for adults on the job, our results depend on our efforts. I cannot sit in my chair and will my students to learn something. I have to interact with them. I don't walk through my kitchen and envision a dinner I have to cook.

Walking with the Holy Spirit is a bit different. First I have to be still, which is not easy for me, listen and then act but only as the Spirit prompts me. It is then seemingly my action but it is certainly His idea and strength moving through me.

It is my intense desire to be the woman God created me to be, to live as He intended. At the end of the day when I write my words of gratitude to Him I want to be able to write, “Thank you for letting me be on fire.”

I suppose those words will always bring Allie to my mind and that is fine. I will always then, remember how impressed she was when he friends were “on fire”, how much she then, wanted to do her best. I hope that my “fire” will do the same for the people around me and draw them closer to the source of the flames.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Confidence


 
Moses said to the Lord, “O, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
Exodus 4:10

Last week I went with my class to see our school play. It was very well done. In fact I often had to remind myself that these “actors” were really elementary school children. Several caught my eye. I was so pleased to see that a friend's child had some real stage presence. He had a smaller speaking part but even when he wasn't speaking, he was acting, not just standing there. There were others as well that seemed to be in their element. One child, however stood out from the crowd.

As I thought about him, about my friend Martha who'd had the good sense to cast him in the role, one of the main roles, I was reminded of Moses.

When God called Moses, Moses hesitated, claiming that his speech impediment would hold him back. God disagreed, eventually giving Moses the grace to have his brother Aaron come and speak for him. Still, God wanted Moses to lead, to command respect, to trust that God's will was best. Fortunately Moses obeyed God but he did so hesitantly.

Back to the play. This little guy who stole my heart from sentence one, had something in common with Moses. He too has a speech impediment, not a small one either. This isn't something you think you might have heard here and there. This is obvious at every single word with an R in it. Now, let me tell you that the play was about pirates (piwates) on a ship called the Curry Bean (Cuwwy Bean). See what I'm saying?

First you have to commend this kid for trying out for a play that is clearly going to challenge his abilities. Then, you have to look at my friend Martha. This boy was not her only option. There were plenty of kids, boys and girls, trying out for this play, many of whom do not have speech issues. Did Martha look at this little guy and say, “Oh sure, he's great. His delivery is spot on and he is understatedly hilarious but that speech!” No. Nor did she think about the phone calls from the mommies who would not understand why this child and not theirs who by the way can, by the way, speak clearly. No she didn't! She looked and she saw a kid with talent, a kid who wasn't going to let a slight problem hold him back. She saw him and she went for it. She was right. He was amazing.

Kudos to the kid for seeing in himself what we were all blessed to see during the show and kudos to Martha for not being a Moses. She didn't say “Oh but Lord, how will this work?” She took a leap of faith and it was rewarded.

You may say she got “lucky” but I will tell you that neither of us believe in luck. We believe in blessings and in following God's pointing finger. I know a lot of prayer went into all of Martha's decisions about that play. If she had any Moses style misgivings, she put them aside and cast the best actor(s). Actors, because my other friend's child, the one who drew the eyes of the audience and delivered his lines with flair, acting them not just speaking words.... Yeah, he has a bit of speech issue too.

The whole thing just proves to me that God is strong in what we see as our weaknesses. He is faithful and He has given us all talents. Let's follow the example of those two young boys and of Martha and not be afraid to use them.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Limitations


 

You want something but you don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight You do not have because you do not ask.
James 4:2


Just a few days ago I was asked to pray for someone very dear to me. This man is in desparate need of God's healing mercies. As soon as I received the request I went to my knees. I prayed fervently for the disease to be removed from his body. That's what I would want him to pray for me, so that is what I prayed for him.
The day after receiving the news I was speaking with a mutual acquaintance about the man's illness. She told me that she was praying for him to get through what is in front of him in faith and with peace. What? Keep in mind, in the group of people we have in common this woman is seen as a paragon of faith, a woman of great wisdom and I, well, let's be tactful and just say they don't see me as much of anything. Here she was, this person all these other people look up to, telling me to pray for our friend's comfort and continued faith as he faces his trial. In her eyes, the illness, the surgery, the trial, are all facts. These are things that will happen. He will become much more ill. He will have surgery. He will face challenges to his faith.

He may. I'm not saying he won't. What I am saying is why in the free world is she just accepting this? Taking it lying down, so to speak. Where is the faith in that?

So I told her what I was praying for, perfect and complete healing. She basically laughed at me. “Oh sure, we all want that but that would be....”

“A miracle?” I interrupted. “Don't we believe in the God of miracles?”

As the verse above states, we have not because we ask not. I'm not saying for a second that every answer is yes but we have to ask.

My granddaughter Madelyn said at one point that this year she just wants a birthday dinner, not a party. She's eight. She'll change her mind a thousand times by September but what if she never told her mom that? What if in her heart she wanted a party but only asked for the dinner. Wouldn't my daughter be inclined to give her child what she said she wanted? God never oversteps. If we're telling Him that all we want is a little peace in the storm then why would He end the storm? I do not pretend to know God's plan for my friend. This I do know, I believe in a God of miracles and if it is in His will He can and will heal my friend. Therefore, I'm asking for total healing and praying that whatever God's will may be, that my friend will indeed feel His love and mercy.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Protected


 

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
the righteous run to it and they are safe.
Proverbs 18:10


For the past several weeks there has been a campaign by the enemy to steal my joy. This happens every now and then in my life. I'm not shocked when it does, Jesus warned us that it would, repeatedly but most obviously in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” So when I find myself in these seasons where the thief is trying to steal my joy I run to the name of the Lord. Sounds simple enough, right? Run and be safe.

It is simple on some level, I'm sure but these past few weeks it has been anything but that. The thing is when the “thief” sees our reaction, running to Jesus, clinging to Him, that just makes him mad and he tries harder. Remember when you were a kid and had a teacher who didn't like you? You wanted to tell your mom and have her make you feel better but you hesitated because if mom then talked to the mean teacher things were only going to get worse. That's kind of what can happen here.

When the enemy sees us rushing toward God, (Imagine him getting “the look” from our Father!) he doubles his efforts in an “oh no you didn't” kind of way. Perhaps he's poked at your health but you've gone to the Word and you're standing on Isaiah where it says that “by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) Now he's really mad so he digs into your bank account and you respond by remembering that God is never outdone in generosity so you give something away. Uh-oh! Now you've done it! The enemy up his efforts until truly no stone is unturned. You've had to fight your way through every area of your life, including some doubts about your faith.

If we all take those fears, illnesses, doubts, etcetera to the strong tower that is the name of our Lord, if we refuse to be defeated, battered sure, angry maybe, hurt of course, but not defeated, the enemy is left with no choice but to flee.

There is something in my life right now that is hard to face. It shouldn't be. It should be joyful but for reasons I cannot define or understand it just isn't. I want to avoid it but I know better. My response last night as I knew the event was coming today was to chat with God about the many times He has surprised me with little pieces of joy, not big miracle moments, just ordinary things that in His hands, in His perfect timing, become precious.

This morning the enemy is mad! He's trying everything he can to get my attention but so far, no success. I can feel the hand of God staying the attacks. I can see Him calmly smiling at me as if to say, “enough is enough. I let him through a little but his fun is over. Go and enjoy.” So I'm going and I plan to enjoy. Oh and I'll be praying that if you are experiencing an attack that you will rush into the strong tower that is the name of God. He has many names, pick one, sing it, say it, shout it but run and don't stop running until you feel safe.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Encouragers


 

Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people especially to those who belong to the family of believers.  Galatians 6:2, 10

Have you ever taken a spiritual gifts test? If so, were you surprised at the results? Most people have something of an idea going into the test. There are people who are great at leading groups, giving, praying or teaching and they take the test fully expecting those results. Several years ago I was one of those people. I've spent most of my life in some form of teaching. While still in high school I taught guitar lessons. In college I got a job at a private school in the pre-school department, eventually teaching pre-K there and to this day my day job is in a classroom. When my assessment results included teacher I was not at all surprised. When they include exhortation I was a little taken back.

It literally means “ a communication emphatically urging someone to do something.” Yuk! That sounds like nagging. The spiritual gift is a bit different. That is, “to encourage, to embolden, to cheer, to advise” and the person of the Bible used to illustrate this gift is Barnabas. Ah, much better. Still, I wasn't sure that was me. An encourager? I hoped so. It sounded great but was it me? Many, many years later, I have come to realize it is me and I am so thankful for that gift.

The last few weeks have been less than my best for various reasons and I've begun to question almost everything, including my spiritual growth. Through it all, I have tried to stay focused on God, His Word, His glory. At times I've done pretty well but other times, I know I've fallen short, way, way short. In response, I've attempted to play to my gifts, my strengths if you will, and find ways to be an encourager. Much harder when you're feeling discouraged and yet somehow doors opened all around me to give, a word here, a little gift there and I felt if not better, at least faithful. In those moments of encouraging, my joy was pure, untarnished by circumstances.

Guess what happened next? Our Abba, in His amazing grace and mercy sent encouragers to me! Within two hours, just yesterday, I received two lovely cards and one text message. The text message even included 3 John 1-8. Wow!

It is important that we all lift each other up, in prayers, by words and by actions. Some of us, are gifted to do just that to family, to friends, to strangers (Although be prepared for the flack you might get from those closest to you when you speak to a stranger, no matter how many times you quote Hebrews 13:2.) and some find it too hard and will do it only in prayer. When you do continue to encourage others, to pray for someone else, to give time, talent or money when your own resources are feeling so very low, that is when God will do great things for you. Faithful action will result in a blessing every single time.

Be encouraged today, by these words, by Abba's love and then go and encourage someone else.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Finish Line



I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has
called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:14

Within twenty-four hours of each other, two young women, both very dear to me, have achieved great goals. One, Jessica, has graduated with a Bachelor's degree in a field she was born to bless with her presence, surely tending to what the world sees as the “least of these.”(Matthew 25:40) The other, Magdaline is graduating today, with a Master's that will take her places where her spirit will surely shine. I have no doubt that Magdaline will leave a huge mark on the world.

That's nice isn't it? Two young woman who have accomplished their goals? Let me tell you that simple fact is not the whole story. Neither of them are the straight out of high school, four or six years in and out degree in hand, done. Both have had obstacles to overcome, delays, setbacks, temptations to pack it all in and take a lesser road but neither one quit.

Both are daughters of single moms, amazing, beautiful, funny and endearing single moms but single moms all the same. That in itself lends at the very least a financial burden. Both of them have worked in actual jobs, real jobs, while going to school. Both of them have had opportunities and invitations that had to be declined because the goal needed tending.

There are no words to say how proud I am of these two young ladies and how grateful to be on their sidelines. Along the way they have both needed encouragement and our Father has provided it to them. Now it's their turn and knowing both of them, I know they will answer the call. Very different young ladies, with a few years of age separating them, these girls will reach people who might never read a verse of Scripture or attend a church service but they will experience the love of God through Jessica and Magdaline who both had the faith and the courage to run the race.

Congratulations ladies! Your victory inspires everyone you know to keep running the race.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Victorious Living


 

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him
and by his wounds we are healed. (emphasis mine)
Isaiah 53:5

A few weeks ago I ended up with deep scratches on the edge of my hand and wrist. I have no idea how they got there and that detail is completely unimportant anyway. What is important is that the wounds are, for the most part, healed. If you looked at my hand today you wouldn't see anything there but if you touched my hand or wrist you'd feel them. I feel them several times a day when I wash my hands or put on lotion. I can't see them but I know they're there.

When I first noticed this, that I could feel what I could not see, I thought of other wounds, things I carry but don't mention. I know that I am not alone in this. Everyone has wounds and my bet is that everyone has wounds that no one sees, scars that are known only to the wounded one and maybe one or two close confidants.

Why do we keep those wounds a secret? Shame? Fear? Guilt? I believe that all of those are possible reasons. I also think that there is one more, a better one. We're over letting them define us. I am not a sum of things done to me, I am the product of God's grace.

There are hurts in my life that are long forgiven and even longer over but every now and then, the pain comes back. I'm reminded that once upon a time.... and in those moments I have two choices. I can wallow in the pain, let it bring in ten friends and really take over my mood or I can remember that it has been healed.

Jesus has scars. Risen from the grave Jesus was able to show His disciples the marks on His hands and feet where the nails had been. He could show them the hole in His side where the sword piereced His flesh. His scars are evidence for us that all of our wounds have been healed. His scars are not objects of pity but evidence of Victory! I may still feel pain, the pain of loss being the most difficult one, but always I can know that healing is available. I can always know but I don't always embrace that knowledge right away. On those days, it is difficult to walk in the joy of the Lord. I may be sad, preoccupied or angry and that darkness stays until I get alone with Jesus and receive His love, mercy and victory. I try not to take that out on the people around me but even when I am able to mask the hurt it is still there. I may be smiling and seem to be just fine but inside there's a storm.

For the last few days, feeling the rough spots on my hand and wrist has reminded me of that. It has caused me to take a step back, give others a little more grace. Yes, they look as if all is well but is it? Are there rough spots on their hearts or souls that I cannot see? Are they not yet able to embrace the victory of the Resurrection?

This isn't a new concept for me. Everyone has wounds. Some people have actual physical wounds that I can see, a missing or broken limb, a scar or a maybe a limp. Those are easy. I see them and I feel sympathy. The ones that are the hardest are the ones I can't see, the ones that manifest as snarkiness, rudeness or cruelty. Those attitudes call for a response and while my flesh wants to react in kind or ignore that person I've decided I'd rather dispense grace. I'd rather give grace to someone who was indeed just being ugly than to withhold it from someone who truly needed it. That is victorious living and that is what my Abba wants for me and for you as well.