Friday, December 8, 2017

Another night with the frogs

The title of this post has become a common saying between my husband and me over the last thirty-odd years of marriage. 

It refers to the story of Moses and the ten plagues, when God was in the process of freeing His people from slavery in Egypt.  One of the plagues - early on in the ten - was a plague of frogs. There were frogs everywhere: in kitchens, bathrooms, back lawns, roadways, and bedrooms - swarming everywhere so much so that you couldn't step anywhere or roll over in bed without a frog there. 

Never mind being unsanitary - it was downright nasty!!  So anyway, Moses goes to Pharaoh (the slave-driver king who was holding Moses' people captive) and says, "I can say the word and the frogs will go away." Pharaoh believes him - after all, he's turned the river to blood! "When do you want me to command the frogs to go away?" he asks the king.

"Tomorrow."

Not right now, not even in an hour. No - Pharaoh is too proud to admit that he has no control over the situation, and so he exerts the only control he thinks he has left. 

He chooses to spend another night with the frogs.

Photo "Green Frog"
courtesy of Elwood W. McKay III at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
People get comfortable with intolerable situations ... sometimes because it's all they know and they fear changing things and moving into something they fear more than the pain of the situation: they fear the unknown. WE fear the unknown. Even if it means spending another night with the frogs. Even if it means staying in that situation or continuing to think, say, or do things we know are going to be bad for us. We get stuck in the same old pattern, doing the same things with the same types of people, and making the same mistakes over and over again. We get locked into a repeating cycle and we want out, but ...

We know things will change if we do step out into a new experience for us. But we don't. 

Why? 

Good question - or is it? Does it matter why? I suspect there are as many reasons as there are people. The point is that we resist change. 

Change is scary. It really is. Taking that first step into the unknown is risky. It's one of the most scary things we can do. But if we don't take that step, we are stuck with the results we've always gotten - and we'll never know what might have been.

The few times I have taken that first step have led to such amazing adventures. I still have to fight the tendency to want to stay with the familiar - even if it's not all that pleasant.  But if the last two years or so has taught me anything, it's that the unknown with the knowledge and awareness of God's love is far better than fighting for space with those slimy critters - the frogs, I mean. :)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

"I will build My church"

It's now been over two years since my husband and I decided to leave the organization that is commonly known as the 'church'. When I tell people that we don't "go to church" anymore, I often see raised eyebrows, and very rarely do I get anything but judgment. Sometimes, though, people are curious and want to know what it is like for us to not gather for services on Sundays and other days of the week. 

My first response is always, "A big relief, honestly." When they want to know more, I describe what we experienced more and more in the 'church' as we got more and more uncomfortable there ... how we would come home from service after service drained, frustrated, and angry. But I don't spend much time on describing that. Instead, I like to talk about what it's been like since we left: relaxed, peaceful, and (to use a Christian-ese word) edifying.

And the inevitable question comes. "How can that be without fellowship?"

When I get this question, especially lately, I chuckle.  They must believe - as I used to believe - that "fellowship" can only be experienced in the pew!!  Just like I used to believe that "worship" could only happen in the context of a "worship service" with an "order of service" and so forth. Such "fellowship" could only occur behind the Four Walls. It was predictable. It was stale. It was familiar .... and not in a good way.

Photo "Two Friends Spending Happiest Time Together" by
imagerymajestic at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
It's not like that at all. Since we have left the Four Walls behind, God has provided what we need for fellowship. No, we don't have cottage meetings where we meet specifically for the purpose of "fellowship." God sets up opportunities for us to get together with people of the Way. 

What happens when we get together is never structured. It's visiting with people who love us and who love God, and who realize more and more how deeply and unconditionally He loves us. When the visit ends, whether we have shared what God is doing in our lives or not, whether He is even mentioned or not, we feel uplifted ... and not worn out. Sometimes someone shares something that someone else needs to hear, but it's not hyped up with music or "atmosphere" - just plain and simple. And sometimes there is nothing that "happens" - and that's okay too. We share each other's company as an expression of love, and that in itself is ministry. And there is no pressure either way.

It dawned on me this morning that Jesus said that on this Rock (the statement, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God") HE would build His church. He doesn't use bricks and mortar. He uses living stones - believers - and THAT is the church He is continually building.  It's HIS church, not mine, not yours, not anyone's. His. 

He also said that wherever two or three were gathered in His name, He would be in the midst of them. I used to think that "in My name" meant "for the sole purpose of glorifying Me" - but now, I'm thinking more that it has to do with a common or shared belief in Him, and less to do with following a contrived script. 

I have felt Him "in the midst" when I was with one other person in a hospital room, or sitting across from someone in a coffee shop, or sitting down to supper with someone, or sharing a coffee or a breakfast with someone, or talking on the phone, or texting, or having a conversation on Facebook's private chat (or Messenger, if you want to call it that). This fellowship, whatever form it takes (and it's God who sets it up!) happens way more often than just once a week. And it is encouraging, strengthening, revitalizing .... and completely natural and effortless. 

Take, for example, a visit I paid to my brother in hospital last Thursday. We laughed, joked, and talked about little things that would only matter to us. I felt led to lay hands on him before I left to go home - and spoke to his kidneys and his pancreas to behave themselves in response to the upcoming stent procedure (because the stent procedure involves injecting with a dye which is hard on the kidneys and the stress could affect his sugars). My 'ministry' only took about a minute. And when I was "done," I told him I loved him and left to go home. (By the way, the stent procedure went great the following Monday. They put in two stents ... and the pain in his chest went away almost immediately ... and the kidneys and pancreas behaved themselves! He got home yesterday, able to take a full breath, able to walk at least three times the distance he could a week previous, and grateful for the opportunity to amaze the doctors yet again ...)

I like this Way better. Much better. Jesus is a great builder.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Turn it around!

Last week, I had the opportunity to go and visit my brother, who has been having a whole laundry list of physical problems. Angina, obstructive lung disease, kidney dysfunction (was at 15%), insulin-dependent diabetes, colon cancer (operated January 2017; they got it all!), gallstones (he has a bag draining his gall bladder because it was too dangerous to operate last January to remove it after his cancer surgery), and that's just the major stuff. 

I had gone over to his place to take him to an appointment and found him gone - and several phone calls later (finally one to the police, who found him) I learned that he had gone to the hospital the day previous. So I went to see him in the hospital. The doctors had told him that the blood test results were positive for the enzyme that is there in the blood after a heart attack. So yes, he had a heart attack, thinking it was angina. They told him he had a couple of "occlusions" - which means that he had blockages in a couple of his arteries.
They were talking about taking him to a better-equipped hospital so that they could do the stent procedure: inserting a small tube inside of the artery to allow the blood to get past the blockage.

Serious stuff - especially considering that the procedure involves shooting dye into the bloodstream in order to see what they're doing in there - and the dye is very hard on the kidneys. For him, with 15% function in his kidneys, it was dangerous. 

Before I left, I obeyed an inner prompting and went over to him. I laid my hand on his abdomen and spoke to his kidneys. I told them in Jesus' name to restore to function. For good measure, I also told his pancreas (which produce insulin and where diabetes happens) to behave themselves. 

When I called the hospital today, they told me that my brother had been to the other hospital for the procedure and was back in his room. I eventually got a chance to talk to him. 

Photo "Eagle In Flight" courtesy
of Jeff Ratcliff at
www.freedigitalphotos.net

He sounded wonderful - more energetic and chipper than I had heard him sound in many months. He said he felt better, and was actually sitting up in a chair when we were talking. He told me that his kidneys did not shut down; in fact, they were working better than they were before the procedure. His progress again astounded the doctors. 

A few posts ago, I talked about how prayer has been changing for me in the last couple of years or so. It's less about asking for things or praying "for" people, and more about deepening the relationship with my Father by spending time with Him. I also mentioned that Jesus didn't pray for people to be healed. By the power of the Spirit, He demonstrated the power of God - by speaking to the problem and commanding it to leave. Since I started doing the same thing, believing with His faith (and not my own), I have seen so many miracles happen that I've lost count. Some are "small" - and some are not. 

I don't say this to brag; I can take absolutely no credit at all for this. NONE!! It's all been Him. Even the faith I use to speak healing and wholeness into people is not mine. It is Jesus' faith (see Galatians 2:20 - "...the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith OF the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.") And the only reason I'm sharing this now is because the knowledge and experience that God has given me about the authority He has delegated to us because of Jesus - has revolutionized the way I pray, the the way I believe, and the way I relate to Him, to myself, and to others. 

I want to encourage other believers to step outside the trap of "oh-please-oh-please-oh-please-oh-please." Rather, we as believers need to step outside of the strain, grunt, and shout mentality and into the rest, relax and trust mentality. We need to know, really KNOW who we are, and rest in how much He loves us. We need to turn it around, to turn our thinking around. We commonly speak death and calamity on the people we pray for (and you have heard this happen as much as I have) by praying our fears out loud and giving God an escape hatch in case things don't work out (called "if it be Your will").  Instead, we can speak to the problem - just as Jesus did, and trusting in HIS faith - and watch in amazement as it obeys.

Because it will. It will. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

More Light

Earlier this summer, we decided to replace the doors in our house. 

It was no small change. The frames around the doors were so rotted that they also had to be replaced, so we thought that this was a good time to get doors that not only were more energy-efficient, but also more secure (with a built-in deadbolt) and that were attractive as well. 

We spent considerable time choosing a design that we could all agree upon, and finally settled on one that allowed us a bit more privacy (without the need for curtains) but that also let in more light.  It costed more, but the final effect has been so nice. 

The windows in the doors are partly made of pebbled glass - hence the privacy without the need for drapery (which also makes for more light) - but the edges of the glass pattern insert are made of beveled glass. That edging has had an effect that we did not anticipate: when the sun is shining through the glass, it acts like a prism, and we have cross-sections of rainbows in our home every sunny morning and every sunny afternoon. 

Photo "Heaven Light From Sun Behind Clouds"
courtesy of criminalatt at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
Rainbows always speak to me of mercy - undeserved favor - and I remember the scripture in the Psalms that says something like, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness..." 

It's funny, but the more I stay away from religious people (and by religious people I mean those typical folks that believe "God is good, I'm bad; I must try harder"), the more I can clearly see the mercy and grace of God in everyday occurrences, the lavish, extravagant love of God, and the fallacy of trying to earn brownie points. I spent a lifetime trying to make God like me more, never feeling like I measured up, never feeling as though I was doing "enough" - and living life on that endless hamster wheel of fear, performance, and shame. Since taking time away from that system to experience God and who He is rather than the system with its rules and regulations and rigidity, I realize more and more the absolute non-necessity of "doing" anything to curry favor with Him.  I am ALREADY favored. I am ALREADY loved to the Nth degree! Just as I am, period!  

It never gets old. The wonder never dims.  In such an atmosphere, absolute freedom isn't an excuse to indulge in guilty pleasures (as some might fear) but an opportunity to develop intimacy with the Almighty One ... and all that means is that I get to spend time with Him without the need to ask for anything because everything I need is already mine in Him. And that includes fellowship, (again contrary to what some might think). God sets up His appointments with others of like mind, far better than I could, and exactly when I need them, to enhance my journey with Him.  It is not forced; there is no structure. What a great gift that is to one whose life was regimented and bound up in the whole notion of fear of what someone else might think. Or the terror that somehow I could damage what God was trying to do if I didn't do a good enough job at ... whatever it was. 

This life is like reveling in beams of sunlight in prisms through the glass - a joyful, grateful, peaceful appreciation of His love. No more cringing. No more hamster wheel. No more reliance on my own strength. Just rest, relax, and let Him shine.

There is always more mercy, always more love, always more light. Always.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Wrong Button

I spent the last two days trying to fix a problem on my computer. I have a mouse plugged in to the laptop (because I find the touch pad gets in the way of my typing, it activates and does things I don't want to do, like highlighting and deleting text I've typed). I was getting so tired of my own natural movements working against things I wanted to do.

I had disabled my track pad when I first got the new computer; set it and forget it, I thought.  But for some reason, the disabled track pad started working again two days ago, and so I wanted to re-disable my track pad. I had just replaced my laptop in June, so I forgot how to do this.  

I kept going to the Settings and was confused when the option to disable the touch pad (in other words, track pad) was not available. I tried every solution that worked with the older version of Windows. Nothing. Several restarts later, I tried going to the Microsoft page for answers. There it was - there was a function key on my keyboard that would do the job. Simple.

I tried it - and it worked. Period. Two keystrokes. Boom.

But it was what I noticed next that caused me to think about this situation enough to write this post. The function key that turned my touch pad off and on was right next to the function key that I frequently use to mute the sound on my computer. I mute the sound because sometimes I play some free Microsoft games that have sounds which are quite annoying. 

So I guess that a couple of days ago, I hurriedly muted my sound, and unknowingly hit this other function key by mistake. Mystery solved. I had hit the wrong button... and brought my difficulties onto myself.

It's so easy to do. I think I am doing one thing when I am really doing something else - like I think I am praying when I am really worrying out loud. Or I think I am being generous when I am really keeping track and expecting some sort of reward. Or I think I am standing for righteousness (whatever that means) when I am really being an obnoxious, judgmental hypocrite. 

I know, because for many years I regularly did those things - and sometimes I still do. But what I was doing was pushing the wrong button. The religion button. The "I'm better than you because God likes me" button. The "aren't I special" button. The "God's gotta listen to me because look at how much I do for Him" button. That's the wrong button. It's the button that makes it all about me.

The right button is - well - I have to be intentional and look for it instead of assuming I know where it is. It's called many things - Love, Grace, Faith, Acceptance, ... and did I mention Love? Not how much I love God ... if it depended on that, wow ... how shallow would THAT be? But it doesn't. What matters is that He loves me. And He loves everyone, NOT JUST me. He IS Love. Love oozes, no, POURS from Him because that's who He is. 

Photo "Decision-Making" by Stuart Miles at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
You see, my human nature wants to think I have something to do with how much He loves me. That's wrong too. 

His Love doesn't depend on what I have or have not done. It doesn't even depend on how much faith I have. "The life I live in the flesh," Paul wrote in Gal. 2:20, "...I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."

Did you catch that? He didn't say "by faith in the Son of God."  He said "by the faith of the Son of God." 

That's a game-changer for me. It's JESUS' faith! I live by JESUS' faith! What a radical, liberating, shame-busting revelation!  This idea jives with Eph. 2:8, 9 where Paul also writes, "By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast." (emphasis mine). 

The grammar here is important, because when Elizabethan language uses "and that" after a comma, it refers to the last thing mentioned BEFORE the comma.  So it is the FAITH that Paul says is not from ourselves. Get it? Faith is the gift from God. So that NOTHING I can do, no amount of faith I have is worth anything - it's all HIM. This revelation means we can speak with the authority that Jesus did to pronounce blessing, healing, and peace on people because He authorized us to do so. Because it's HIS FAITH. We don't have to depend on our own - because if we did, we could (and would) boast.  SEE how much faith I had! I prayed and that person was healed because of MY faith... can you see the fallacy?! 

Okay, I get it that "without faith it is impossible to please Him..." and all that. But really - where do you think the faith comes from? (Duh!) 

The revelation that it was not my own feeble faith that I could use (and I doubted that I had enough to do anything with it ... which is why "it" failed. Every. Single. Time) but that I was totally depending on Jesus' faith - revolutionalized my prayer life. This is "the right button."  For me, it was so very liberating and rid me of so much guilt and shame in my inner life.  I started thanking God for His unconditional, lavish love instead of asking Him for stuff. I quit praying for God to heal people, and instead spoke healing on them in the name of Jesus. HIS faith is what has been effective in so many instances I could name in the last two years. Not mine.

Focusing on intimacy with God in my prayer life instead of succumbing to the "gimmes" has also had another cool side-effect. As I meditate on His love, I see areas of my life changing. I don't judge as much as I did. I am more accepting of people's differences, and no longer want to turn them into carbon-copies of me. I care more about how some people get treated whose opinions and beliefs don't follow the majority, or whose skin colour just happens to be different from mine. I see injustices happen and I want to do things to educate people who behave this way, and show my support for those who are oppressed. 

By no means am I saying that I have arrived. All I am saying is that I spent decades hitting the wrong button and looking for complicated answers when all I needed to do was go to the Maker and find out what the right button was - and rely totally on that.  His Love. His faith. His grace. His. 

And that way, I don't get in my own way as much anymore. Go figure. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Nothing but the Bow

Rainbows. The symbolism of all colours being present in Light is one of the greatest things about them. The Father of Lights is a fitting name for the Creator and Source of such a lovely phenomenon...

The first rainbow recorded in the Bible appears after the Great Deluge - the Flood. God decided to share something that is always present with Him - the "bow" - (more about that later) with mankind, but He set it in the cloud. The bow symbolizes mercy; the cloud symbolizes judgment or justice

On Earth, the bow naturally cannot exist without the cloud (water vapour); we only see half of a rainbow (a semi-circle) at most, because our vision is limited by the horizon. 

But not so above. Although the bows we see cannot be seen from space because the clouds are in the way (did you catch the symbolism? when there is too much judgment, mercy cannot be seen), astronauts have documented seeing their reflection in the water - and on rare occasions, one of those who have, also said that he saw the whole circle reflected on the ocean from above - a remarkable experience. 

One other person said he saw one ... a whole circle ... long ago. The apostle John, in his vision on the island of Patmos (while in exile for his faith) saw a rainbow, a full circle - but there was one major difference from the rainbows of earth. There was no rain, and there was no cloud. There was only the Bow. It encircled the throne of God.

Nothing but the Bow. Only mercy. No judgment. NONE. Total acceptance, with no cloud obscuring, hiding, barring the way. 

What a contrast to the way most people think of God... as a harsh judge, jumping on every little failure, angry and foreboding, waiting to say, "Gotcha!" as he crushes us under his thumb. 

But that is not how God is. If that is your view of him, it is distorted by the cloud of judgment, by the limitations of our earthly system. I might even go far as to say that a lot of people create their god in their own image - and call him God. 

If you want to know what God is really like, look at Jesus. "He who has seen Me has seen the Father," Jesus said. 

Photo "Double Rainbow" by Evgeni Dinev
at www.freedigitalphotos.net

The myth of an avenging God is just that - a myth. Jesus hung out with the dregs of society: the hooker, the double-dealing bookie, the eunuchs (by the way, these were as close to trans people as folks dared express in that day), the poor and the lepers, the downcast and downtrodden. Even the rich and / or religious who sincerely sought the truth, He did not turn away. 

I don't know who this other god is that people fear (are afraid of) so much. He certainly bears no resemblance to Jesus. So my conclusion is that he must be a false god, a puny god.

My God loves. My God accepts. My God has a Bow surrounding Him with no cloud: mercy WITHOUT judgment. He is (and gives) Love without conditions, peace without distress, joy without reservations. Anyone who tries to say otherwise is selling their own, limited brand of god, limited by human understanding and logic. God created logic, and science, and intelligence, but He defies description, exceeds comprehension, and surpasses anything our minds can conceive. 

There is therefore no fear; there is no judgment; there is no condemnation; there is nothing but love, acceptance, and mercy. Nothing but the Bow. 

If you are struggling today with not feeling good enough, always feeling as though you have to measure up, let that go today; those feelings do not come from Him, but from your limited view of who He is. He has nothing but mercy for you. He has nothing but acceptance for you - just the way you are. He has nothing but love for you... whether you feel that or not. It is true!  Let Him remove your inability to see Him the way He is... You will never regret it!   

Monday, May 29, 2017

Anything but this...

When the children were young and we were so very deep in debt there was no way out, when we were forced to one inescapable conclusion - that we had to declare bankruptcy - I groaned inside. "Oh God. Anything but this."

But of course it happened. And through it, I learned about mercy, and grace, and forgiveness, and provision. I learned which people were our friends and which ones didn't want to have anything to do with us because they judged us. I learned how God can take the most awful experiences of our lives and teach us lessons we need to learn: how to live within our means, for one thing. 

When the government came after my husband and took him to court - and we had no money to fight them - when they broke every promise they made to us when he stood trial, I closed my eyes and said, "God. Anything but this." But it happened anyway... and through that experience we learned the pain of being falsely accused with no way to fight back, and we learned who stayed, and who judged. We also learned even more about God's provision, and were given even more opportunities to forgive.

When our child was injured and had to undergo surgery - when she faced unjust treatment by one health care professional after another - when she was declared disabled ... I dropped my head to my chest and sighed, "Oh God. Anything but this." But through that experience we learned how to ask for what we needed, how to accept help, and how to see light even in the midst of darkness. 

When our other child rebelled, hung out with people who were in trouble with the law, stole for them, stole from us, and finally wanted to leave the province, I ached inside ... "God. Please. Anything but this." I was so scared, felt so rejected. But ... she left anyway. And through her leaving, I realized that the hedge of protection that I had placed around her no longer protected her because she had chosen to leave. At the same time, and probably BECAUSE of that loss of protection, I learned how to trust Him for all things, how she needed to be away from that protection to see how bad things were "out there".  I learned how to let go more and more of my need to control the outcome, and how to develop a relationship with her that grew more and more precious in such a short time. And I knew the joy of seeing that same child embrace a vibrant relationship with God - something she never would have done had she stayed. 

When she got evicted and had to live in her car, when she fought fatigue, sickness, hunger and cold for days and days ... making her so exhausted she fell asleep at the wheel and was killed ... I cried in anguish, "Oh GOD! Anything but this!!"  But of course, through the searing pain of loss, I learned the sweetness of God's presence, the wonder of true friendship, the amazing impact of her legacy the more I told her story, and the empathy that allowed me to be there for someone else who lost her own daughter not long after that. 

More and more I am convinced that God uses the darkest, most terrifying experiences of our lives to show us His great love and to make us stronger for whatever is around the bend. I have learned this through the things I have gone through, usually kicking and screaming like some petulant child. He is patient with me. I am learning.

Photo "Doctor In Surgery" by
taoty at www.freedigitalphotos.net
When my brother got cancer, and needed to have surgery, I knew by then that God was going to work something amazing out of it all. And He did. The surgeon got all the cancer. There is none left. Sure, there are physical problems still, and it is hard, but God has this under control. 

When my mom got dementia and went wandering one day last month, and had to be put into protective custody in the hospital, part of me went to that place of fear: "Dear God, no. Not this." But this time, I didn't stay there. I started to see how God was working even in the midst of this horrible thing in our family. I can see God's love in the situation even while she waits, still wanting to go home, to be placed into a nursing home - the last place she ever wanted to go. In spite of all of that, I have confidence that He will make a way in that wilderness just like He did with all the other barren places I have mentioned, and way more besides. 

He does this because He loves us. He LOVES US. Not because there is anything we've done or not done - but because He WANTS to. That's it. No more than that. 

And I am sure that He will amaze us all. And that He will delight in His lavish love when our jaws drop at how good He is to us.

So ... when people ask me to pray for God to take something away from them that is hurting them, or hurting someone they love, I will pray - of course! But I pray for God to do the same kinds of miracles that He did for me and for us, ... for them.  I pray that He shows them His presence not only with them, but IN the whole situation. I pray that they have peace, that they will learn the joys of letting go of their situations and clinging to Him. That they will realize that He is right there with them.  

I have seen too many miracles happen "in the midst" to believe less than that. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Waking Up

Winter's long sleep is reaching the twilight hour before the dawn, when we're not even sure if there is a change happening, except ... except ... the geese have returned.  The trees - still leafless and silent - are budding.  Female mourning doves are returning, and the males waiting for them have taken to billing and trying to chase them down one at a time. The daylight lingers just a little bit longer. Rain melts away snowbanks - imperceptibly at first, then more noticeably as the earth awakens.  The grass - if it shows at all - is still brown and wilted, but as if by magic, gradually appears green moss and the first stirrings of the lichen that will eventually bear the muted purple tones of heather.  

Photo "Blooming Snowdrops In The Spring"
courtesy of radnatt at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
Those who know me best know that I hate winter: the cold, the piercing damp wind, the lack of light, the ice and slippery footing, the bulky clothing, and how it feels like it never seems to end. Every year, though my head knows it will, my heart wonders if it will EVER end. 

This morning, a snowbank, which had stubbornly persisted the last two months outside our picture window, was suddenly gone after a soaking drizzle kept at it all night.  Beneath it, I was surprised to see tiny one-inch sprigs of green: thin sword-like leaves bearing, in a place or two, another layer of foliage that had a tinge of purple to it, a promise of a bud soon to form. "Crocus," I breathed, noting my own sudden, internal sprig of ... what was it? happiness?  Hope? I couldn't quite tell which it was... 

A few feet away, like tiny rolled up cones of forest green paper, tulip plants were sprouting from beneath the mixture of soil and wet maple leaves from last fall, half-decomposed maple leaves I had forgotten were there until the snowbank was gone. They were about three inches above the soil, so I realized that they had been slowly growing beneath the snowbank - and with the rain, the snowbank slowly rolled back like a heavy velvet curtain at a live theater performance.  

I stayed at my position in the window, kneeling on an armchair with my nose pressed up against the glass, for a few minutes.  I drank in the sight, reveling in the tiny slivers of color, until my knees told the rest of me that it was time to get back on my feet.  Yet, a few times throughout the day, I have returned to my perch to check and see whether the buds have shown any sign of maturing.  My soul needs this gentle, delicate whisper of promise, a distant echo of God's own rich voice.  Too long my soul has just been "hanging on" waiting for better times, for more daylight moments in which to soak in nourishment as the leaves soak in the sun's rays. It is as if my soul has joined the Earth in its trip around the sun; it is now in a better position to benefit from the warmth that was always there all along. 

I, like the Earth, the plants, the birds, the trees, and the grass, am waking up. Winter is finally giving way - even if only a little - to the persistent hopefulness of spring.  The longer, darker nights are shortening.  I am more aware of the Light. It is good; He is good.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Making room

You make room for what matters to you.  I've heard people say this. I've said it. And I believe it's true. 

But what if what matters to you, after you have made room for it, becomes so deeply ingrained into you that it's like breathing?  Well  ... then you just breathe. You don't think about it; you just do it. And when you are prevented from doing that, you fight with every ounce that's in you to regain that thing that is like air to you. So the question becomes not whether you make room for something but WHAT you make room for ... WHAT will eventually become indispensable to you!!

When it comes to spiritual things, there are a lot of people who have made A room for God and all things spiritual. It is a nicely furnished room - filled with warm fuzzy feelings and lots of symbolism, music and pretty things. Or they furnish it with war banners and weapons of self-righteousness (but that is another post for another time.) There, in that space, they are able to contain their faith, compartmentalize it, give it a place to exist without fear that it will overtake the rest of their life or make any real changes in them or in their world. After all, that would be fanaticism. Right? 

Photo "Fountain" courtesy of dan at
www.freedigitalphotos.net

But I'm not talking about making A room for God. I'm talking about making room - allowing Him to overtake, fill, overflow, and transform everything we are. 

Listen to the words of Paul: "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear..." (Colossians 3:4). This is how He becomes so deeply infused into us that we cannot imagine life without the assurance of His presence... living in constant contact with Him, bubbling up from within us like an artesian well of clean, refreshing water. This is where prayer becomes an act of intimacy, as I spoke about in my last post. This is where God's love becomes a moment-by-moment reality, not one of those struggle-to-believe-it things, but a wonderful reality, making us naturally burst forth in an automatic grateful outpouring of worship and praise, an eternal fountain of confidence in His power and grace. 

From that fountain (which comes from that artesian well!) we CAN speak with His authority to the problems we see and experience in our (and another's) life. We CAN command sickness to leave. We CAN banish oppression. We CAN - because He has delegated that authority to us.  And - I say again - we don't even have to rely on our own faith; we have His ... so there is no doubt that can creep in, no faith-killing phrases, no negativity. There is only His love, His power, His faith, His authority.

How can I say this? Because ... I've experienced it.  The last few months in my life have been a testament to how strength, provision and miracle after miracle flow from this supernatural source of living water! Those who know me best know about these miracles - but I will give a couple of examples, just from the last 3 or 4 months, of commanding sickness to leave and seeing direct results:
(1) my own diagnosis of pre-cancer of the uterus, followed by a complete hysterectomy (almost fully recovered and feeling better than I was before the surgery in some ways), and 
(2) my brother's diagnosis of stage 1 colon cancer, the fact he actually survived the surgery, beat gall-bladder complications, and his kidney function (stopped at one point) began to improve. The doctors are still baffled. But we both know what happened: the authority of Jesus released through the spoken word and producing healing!

And these stories need to be told; there is no arguing with experience! 

In the same way that we can make room for God and His power, we can also make room for the enemy of our souls. I explained it to one person this way: death and life are in the power of the tongue, the Psalmist said.  When we, as ambassadors of Christ, speak and agree with the words of satan, we make room for him to do as he pleases. He kills. He steals. He destroys. And those innocent predictions (fears, worries) that we make out loud or even to ourselves? They actually make room for the enemy to have his way, for him to win. When we make room for satan by words of negativity, doubt and fear, we hand over to him the power over those situations to actually do what it is that we fear the most. I've seen this happen, time and time again. And it's so unnecessary!

However, when we take that forfeited space back - when we make room for God's passion for us to come to the fore, and we speak those things that He wants (life, love, healing, peace, joy, grace, strength, wisdom) then the enemy of our souls is routed, overthrown, and defeated in that situation. We walk in God's love. We don't try to convince people; we just live in that life-filled place, breathe, sleep, eat in that reality where God is large, in charge, and for us (Romans 8:31). We make room for God to have His way in us - to take His rightful place. Not because we "should" but because He loved us from start to finish before we even were conceived. Such lavish love is enough reason to make room.