Blisters or not I will trudge up hills and pull thorns from my feet because this road leads to a valley of glory. The babbling brooks will sing in worship and the mountains will bow down. It will take my breath away...
We got an early snow this year. It dampened spirits. Especially mine. The glory of God in the color change of Fall simply feeds my spirit, so I began to whine. I just knew that the leaves would drop off the trees and Fall would be over before it had even begun. Winter had come fast and hard and I wasn't ready...
Then God did what God does. The colors haven't been this vibrant in years.
My spirit is dancing...
I see you Lord! Thank you for this gift. Your power and glory overwhelm me...
The Gospel message of grace is powerful, Jesus'death on the cross unfathomable, and the word of God is amazing yet heady stuff. Over the last couple years I have been seeking God more intimately than ever before and as I dig deeper into Scripture I am more and more fascinated. As questions arise, and they constantly do, I am thankful for the work of Bible commentators and Bible teachers. But more than that, I am thankful for the fresh revelations that have come to me through the work of the Holy Spirit. Without going into too much detail, I want to share something that happened recently as well as what God spoke to me in the process. But, before I do, I need you to understand that I am not one of those people who gives the enemy more credit than he deserves and I have never been one to sit too long in the spiritual realm. Simply, I have never been comfortable there. Here is an example. I have a friend who, when I ask her how she is, her answer is always that she is under attack by Satan. I pray for her. But my inward response is different. I don't usually say what I am thinking out loud, but it goes something like this. "Why does the enemy have so much power over you?! What are you reading, watching, saying? Where is your focus? Is your heart pure? Then I would ask myself, Isn't it through our own sin that Satan gets his foot in the door in the first place? Here is another example. Paul and I have other friends who travels to Africa frequently and pray for the natives to be free from bondage to the demonic. My skin starts to tingle just listening to the stories they tell, and I find myself silently saying, Thank you Jesus. Thank you that you haven't called me to that ministry. Here, I know, is where it might be time for me to examine my own heart. I have another friend who has seen Angels. "I want that, Lord!" I said when she told me. Can you imagine? Then I find out that she also sometimes sees demons and my prayer instantly transformed. "Never mind about what I said, Lord." I told him. "If seeing Angels goes hand in hand with seeing the armies of Satan then I change my mind." In my early years as a Christian I often walked blindly into things because of my desire to know God more. I went with women to conferences that I really knew nothing about and before I knew what was happening, I was right in the midst of things that simply did not feel right in my spirit and I did not want to be a part of them. I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. There was, after all, a huge room full of women that thought everything going on around us was fine. In seeking answers to these uncomfortable things, I prayed fervently and started to study the Bible. That is where I settled. It has been the one constant in my life. My desire to understand God's word and His truth has never waned. It is my center, and He continues to draw me back for more. In my desire, God orchestrated what I needed and when I needed it. He has used them to draw me always back to Jesus, and breath new life into these broken dry bones. Now that you have a little more of my history I'll share what brought me to write this post. Several months ago, I found myself in the presence of a woman who I had never seen and did not know but when she looked at me, the hair stood up on my arms. Something in my spirit stirred wildly, and I wanted to get as far from her as I could. This was a "church" event which made it all the more disconcerting. I couldn't shake it, and as the feeling lingered, I could do nothing but lay it down in prayer. "What was really weird, Lord. Really weird. What was that?" It happened again months later when I saw the women a second time. This encounter was brief but just as powerful. I have not seen the woman again. Now, it's a few months later, and in a casual conversation I am told about a woman who has been hired for a job. This job affects my life only indirectly. I did not know this person, and had never seen them at this point. (Sorry to be so vague, but I feel it's necessary.) As this conversation continued, something happened. The best description I can give you is that something came on me. I got scared, and then enraged. It was powerful. I felt out of control and crazy. I was in a very uncomfortable, unfamiliar place and yet, going off inside me along with the danger alarm, was a vague reminder that I had walked in this place before. It was more than I could deal with. I just wanted it to go away. It took a while to even pray about it. But when I got there, I prayed a lot. Weeks later, when this person and I met face to face, God had gone before me. And while there was nothing on the surface but kind words and a sweet smile, I knew there was also something in front of me that was dark and wanted to bring me harm. This became a serious issue in my life. However, what has come out this time, what God has revealed to me since is this... The spiritual battle going on around us is not to be taken lightly. We are told to put on the armor of God for a reason. Ephesians 6:10-15. Multiple times over the last few years I've questioned God concerning things that didn't feel right in my spirit. Understanding God's truth and having his discernment has been the topic of much conversation between the Lord and I. So this time when I asked him, "What is this about, Lord?" His words were clear. "I'm showing you what it's about." As I pondered this, I knew that God had allowed me to experience something spiritually dark because I needed to know of it's power and learn how to pray. The next week in small group the word of the night was, "vulnerable." Our men were preparing for a weekend retreat and we talked and prayed about the importance of being vulnerable before the Lord. That word and image stayed with me for a long time. A little over a week later, God brought all of it to a close as I was meditating over this scripture. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Theologians may disagree on what Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was, but Paul's torment was great enough for him to ask God to remove it 3 times. God, however, kept it there so that Paul would not become conceited. It is not a coincidence that I received this Scripture on Sunday at a church I don't normally attend. God got me there because he wanted me to hear this word. This is who God is. He then went on to remind me of my own prideful words. I had spoken them to my husband and my daughter. They went something like this. "Maybe "so and so" should spend some time in God's word. I spend more time in it than anyone I know and you don't see Satan wrecking havoc over me." Then God tied it all up with the word from our small group. "You didn't think you were "vulnerable" to something like this." He told me. "I needed to show you that you were." Wow God...Okay. You got my attention and now I give you my repentance. I am vulnerable, but you are great in power and in love.
Paul... For thirty-seven years, you have given me unconditional love. Your constant flirtation keeps me feeling young at heart and your desire to have me near you after all these years is precious to me. Like my Father, you do it all and take care of everything. I know I don’t tell you enough how much comfort that brings me. You make me feel protected, beautiful, and safe. You are more than a gift to me; you are, in fact, the greatest example of a redeemed life that I have ever known. I continue to fill with love for you as I watch you Father our grown children and Papa our grandsons. I can’t wait for the next season of my life with you. I stand in faith that someday soon I will be beside you in Israel and hold your hand as we walk where Jesus walked. I can already see your tears of joy. I thank God for giving you to me as my husband, and I love you from the deepest place in my heart.
ReAnnon, Garrett, Michael, Chandler, Jude and Reed... Because of you, I know the deepest joy, the sweetest laughter, and the most precious love. Seeing you happy and hearing you laugh simply fills me. You are the reason I have been on my knees before the Lord more times than I can count. Sometimes in praise and sometimes in prayer, but either way, you will always be the deepest cries of this mother’s heart. Because of God’s love for me, and the love He placed in me for you, I am now a worshipper and a Psalmist and I know how to battle for you and I know of the power in the gift of prayer. In mothering you, I fail and sin, but because of it, I continue to come back to the place where I must stand. The truth of God’s word. Being a mother brings me closer to the heart of my Father in heaven and builds my reliance on Him. Through our trials, I have grown in desire to understand the burden of sin and sacrifice of love that Jesus carried to the cross. Because of it, I am in communion with the Holy Spirit helper who gives me strength and I know all things beautiful and lovely come from God. Because of my Father’s love, I can love you with the grace of a transformed and redeemed heart. God made us a family for His purpose, so I pray that each one of our lives bring glory to God. It is what we were created for. I pray that we would persevere through our trials in faith with joy knowing that Jesus suffered for us more than we will ever know. May you be filled with His peace as it surpasses your own understanding, be overwhelmed with the love of your heavenly Father, know the power of the Holy Spirit alive in your life, and never cease to be filled with awe at the Glory of our God. I love you!
Dad...Growing up I felt safe and protected because of you. Every day of my life, you put on a suit, went to work, and at the same time every evening, you came home. You taught me trust. You fixed what was broken, took care of all our things, and always took the time to play. You taught me how to hit a baseball, throw a basketball, and ride a bike. It was not until many years later that I learned not all fathers and husbands did these things. You gave me a childhood full of soft green grass where I laid and dreamed. I will always love the smell and feel of grass under my feet because of you. You sat beside me while I poked tomato worms, called me when you found a praying mantis, and collected jars for my fireflies. You taught me about boxing and I loved it because of you. I still think about the banter between Howard Cosell and Mohamed Ali sometimes. You taught me how to laugh, and took the scary out of thunderstorms. You made them fun. I love you.
Mom...You were my example. I know what a Mother's heart is and what it does because of you. You gave me something precious that I was able to give to my own children. Things of childhood go deep in me because your were my Mom. I love fabric stores because of the time I spent in them with you. I watched you pin patterns and transform cloth into the most beautiful things I hade ever seen. I watched you make yourself beautiful and noticed how Dad looked at you when you did. You were like Jackie Kennedy but prettier and I wanted to be stylish, glamorous, and just like you. I love to sing because of you. My childhood was full of music. I remember album after album of singers and songs and the joy from that. The other day I just burst out singing a song for Jude. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but there it was. "And the Red Red Robin goes bop bop boppin' along.” Jude wanted me to sing it over and over. A day or so later, ReAnnon “googled” the words she had remembered and it had come from a 1960’s “Sing along with Mitch Miller” album. With those words I was flooded with memories. Andy Williams, Glen Campbell, Barbara Streisand, Peter, Paul, and Mary, The Sound of Music.” This was such a gift. And I do not remember a single night that you didn’t make dinner for the six of us. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, pot-roast, meatloaf, creamed corn. All of these still comfort my soul, and I remember the expensive jars of maraschino cherries that you would bring home just for me when you had a little extra money for groceries. No one but you could have given me these things, so from your Mother’s heart to mine and back… I love you!
Peggy...before God ever put any of this this on my heart, the words you once spoke gave me courage when the time came to step out in faith and try. Your editing made sense of some jumbled messes, and your gift giving, prayers, and encouragement lift my spirit and make me smile. We have worshiped God together in a park in Beijing China on Easter Sunday, laughed along roads in New England while taking in God's glory of fall, and we have prayed in a tiny house in Sera Azul Mexico with floors of dirt. You just “get me”, and your friendship is a precious gift. You bless my life.
I grew up in tornado country and Spring always announced itself with a great and stormy sky.
The horizon would grow dark as blue-black clouds rolled and tumbled and filled the sky. I was well aware of their power as my heart beat faster.
Anticipation, fear, and awe took turns inside my spirit playing follow the leader.
We were taught what to do. Mom would meet us at the door if the storms found us outside, and then we sat in the drn on the floor, watched, Gary England, and waited for Dad. We have meteorologists in Oklahoma, and he was ours. He told us what we needed to know about the impending storm and I still remember the comfort of his voice. I trusted him. If Mr. England changed the symbol from thunderstorm watch to tornado warning before Dad arrived home, Mom would take us to the bathroom and I'd get scared.
But the moment Dad came through the door my fear went away. He would change his clothes and we'd go to the garage where Dad would snap on the radio, open the garage doors, and line up the lawn chairs side by side.
As long as the storm lasted the five of us would sit like that. Dad and his kids. We watched clouds darken and shift. I'd scoot to the very edge of my chair and gasp as flashes of lightning shot across the sky. I'd hold my ears as gigantic booms of thunder vibrated my bones. At times the the sky grew so dark that I held my breath and just when I thought I couldn't stand it anymore, the sky would break open and pour down buckets full of rain. The hail made my sisters scream but my brother ran into it like a superhero proud to show us the red whelps he brought back inside with him. I was transfixed watching our green grass turn into a glassy white blanket.
Dad put us inside the bathtub once and when I saw the look between my parents I knew the tornado was coming. Dad left for a minute and came back with a mattress. He told Mom to get in with us and then he held the mattress over our heads. There were a few moments when the sound of the wind covered the sound of Mother singing. In the stillness I thought it was over. It wasn't. The wind came back, and then, Dad put the mattress down. He told Mom to keep us there until he came back. When all was clear Dad said, "I thought I'd drive around and see what the tornado did. Anyone want to come with me?" I did. I don't know how far we drove, but when Dad parked we both got out. A family was wandering outside on a lawn down a street and their house had no roof. "Look," Dad said as he pointed. "It's over there." It was balancing on top of a house down the street. The family without the roof was letting people go inside to see. Dad told me they were in shock, but I had to ask him after what shock was. Inside the house, the TV was on but it didn't have a picture. Dad was talking to people about couch cushions and books on a shelf. I wandered into the kitchen. On a table was a vase of red flowers. I stared while the people around me talked about them. They just sat upright on the peoples kitchen table in the water in the pretty vase. I looked up and saw the sky. On the drive home, Dad told me that tornadoes had strange power. He told me when he was a boy he saw a rake pushed through a telephone pole once after storm and that a neighbor's cow had been found walking in a field over a mile away after another one.
Something changed in me that day. I did not understand the things I saw and heard. But as I stared at the flowers in the kitchen with no roof I knew God knew everything I did not and after that I saw God's glory in the lightning. I smelled it in the rain and I heard it in the thunder. I know it is present now even a midst the destruction of the current seasons storms so I pray for the people who lives were forever changed by them. But, as I remember the red flowers on the table in a kitchen with no roof I know that new life and redemption comes.
May they see your goodness, Lord, and may they know your great love.
I pray the words of this Third Day song for their lives...
"Show them your glory. Send down the heavens, they want to see your face. Show them your glory. Majesty shines about you they can't go on without you Lord."
Hearts cry, Abba Father! Come Lord, Come! I can't even wrap my head around the devastation from the recent floods and storms. More people have been killed by tornadoes this year than in the last seven combined, but my faith teaches me not to question the sovereignty of God.
When I think about the tragedies I've walked in or beside in my lifetime, I learned long ago that there is only one choice I can make. That is to praise and trust my Savior through all things beyond my understanding.
I know that as we pray, cry, and grieve alongside everyone effected by these tragedies that God has not missed a single tear that's been shed. He knows the name of every father, mother, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandparent and child that are suffering. I know that He has not forsaken nor removed His presence from a single one, and yet, many of them have hearts that are breaking in two.
Pray with me that God would have His way a midst the things we cannot understand. That the truth of His love and the sacrifice of Jesus would be revealed in the midst of the pain. That ashes would be made beautiful. That broken hearts would turn to a Father that heals and Holy Spirit revelation would turn sadness into hope and grief to faith. That everything broken and ugly would have have the breath of new life in the promises of Gods word.
May your glory shine so bright, Lord, that it can not be denied.
And the angels cry,"Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord who was and is and is to come."