Take heart

A day off. An inhale and slow exhale kind of day. That’s what I was expecting this morning. After taking care of the dogs, I laid back on the couch and lazily watched the news while wrapped in a soft blanket. The dogs had settled back down after a morning romp and the house was still. I just kissed my man goodbye and reminded him of how happy I was for him to return in the evening. I got up to make the bed and when I returned 5 minutes later, I saw that my phone screen was full.

Who on earth is trying to reach me at 5:45 in the morning????

It was Roger. In that moment my heart starts to beat with an intensity that left me dizzy.

My mind whirls with horrible thoughts. His heart….. an accident……my hands tremble to unlock the phone and call him, bypassing the messages he left me.

My husband doesn’t leave messages. This adds to my distress and shaky hands.

I reach him. He sounds strong and good and annoyed. It’s the car. Exhale…… the car, just the car. No accident, the car decided to stop working.

What a great thing. Cars can be fixed and replaced. He’s fine I tell myself. I will get him and he will take my car to work and we will deal with his later.

Outside is filled with a fog so intense, we missed turning back into our house when he dropped me off. The fog feels like my head right now. All muddled and full of fear. Anxiety in my chest feels heavy with the panic that came to visit when I didn’t know what was wrong.

Though he’s fine, my body feels like it’s been attacked by a wave of fear that leaves me struggling to orient myself  (for those who don’t know, he has a heart condition that we watch closely).

I thought I’d dive into my Bible. Scriptures have always been my favorite way to connect with God but I feel this invitation to go out and be in the garden.

I walk around a fog-filled, early morning garden and  I voice to God, this is what I feel like on the inside!!! It’s not helping….. Then I sense a prompt to take a closer look.

The fog had transformed everything. The spider webs have droplets on them. The flowers looked as if they were covered with sugar.

In that moment I realized that I’m covered too. I’m covered by a God that is everywhere at once. The garden was covered with a fog that at first seemed completely disorienting and frustrated my ability to view the world around me. Then I realized that it also covered the world with life-giving water. Not just covered things, it made them more beautiful. Something about the sheer wonder around me cause the fear to slip away.

I fear Roger leaving this earth and being alone. The one I’ve loved so deeply and for so long. But the truth is, I am never alone. God is always everywhere all around me and his spirit within me.

Everywhere I looked was an intricate design of grace. I didn’t have my real camera with me and these photos were taken with my iPhone but they are still a delight.

My fight with fear is not over but God’s grace will always trump it if I allow him to lead me through it.

What a tender and powerful God he is.

John 16:33

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

 

 

 

When difficulty comes…..

Our trip to France was filled with a fairy tale wedding and time to wander down old towns with a feasting of the eyes and an ear to heaven.

We were in Bordeaux for a week and it is wine country. Fields of vines that were being prepared for the next harvest. Miles and miles of land that was all awaiting the warmth of Spring and Summer.

I knew the land had lessons it wanted to pass along and I’m always a hungry to learn.  I was amazed at the canes that protruded from the earth with what appeared to be two arms lifted up in a stance of worship.

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Acre upon acre the land was filled with old weathered vines with arms uplifted.  They had survived years of bearing fruit and every year they get pruned back to their bare beginnings.

In Scripture, Jesus refers to the vine and the branches as he is the vine and we are the branches and that metaphor is profound in its own right. But there was another metaphor to see right before my eyes.

I saw these weathered vines with lifted arms and imagined them to be mature disciples of Jesus. Every year we are to bear fruit. Young shoots come off of the main vine and bear fruit. Did you know that a cane (branch) can only bear great fruit one time before it needs to be cut off and replanted become a mature vine, or thrown out? If it gets planted and takes, then it is not allowed to bear fruit for two or three years until the root system is substantial enough to allow it to send nutrients to new vines.  

Every year the pruning to mature vines is drastic, leaving nothing but the original vine and a couple of canes.

I saw the connection. Last year’s fruit in my life is not what I lean on. Yesterday is gone and today requires new shoots, new disciples, new growth in relationships.

Remember, fruit is produced on the current season’s growth, that in turn grows from last season’s wood. Heavy pruning provides the best fruit. Light pruning results in large yields of poor-quality fruit; very heavy pruning produces too much vegetative growth and very little or no fruit. There are lessons to be learned in this life cycle.

I’m a gardener and I remember when I was first learning about how to care for roses that I was mortified at how much of the canes I had to cut back. At first, I ignored the sound advice and just snipped at the roses. In no time at all, I had diseases roses on my hands. Then I became bolder and understood why the cuts needed to be made. Though I still wince when I cut off what looked like a perfectly good set of buds. It’s amazing how God prunes our lives. At times the cuts are at our ego because that ego has a way of spreading the “me” disease on everything.  I never know where God will actively prune my life.

The encouragement I received was in looking at the vines (mature disciples) with uplifted arms, waiting for Spring and Summer so that the harvest can come. Knowing that the shoots that are grown will one day become strong canes that take their place in the land.

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Life at times feels brutal and you wonder if you can stand it but know if that is the season you are in, you are poised to bear the best fruit, just like the grapevines in France. 

Though it feels like barrenness, it is at the hand of the vigneron.

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We are in good hands. I pray this blesses you the way it blessed me.

We worship and wait as we prepare for the Spring and Summer.

Can you still bow?

Can you still bow? 

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Has your year has been beyond your wildest dreams, or have they been filled with hardships and griefs that are welcomed to never return?

Has it changed your view of God?

Has God become less good because our lives went sideways when we thought we had a good plan in place?

Have people gone that you thought would last a lifetime?

Has loss come to visit or has it been fortune?

Last year brought both extravagant blessings and severe grief.  My emotions have been stretched beyond their boundaries and are in foreign soil.

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In a year that has rivaled it’s predecessors; this is what I know for sure.

God is good.

He is hope eternal.

He is the anchor that holds.

His love is deeper than any grief and richer than any blessing.

To KNOW Him is the continued cry of my soul.

A few weeks ago, I rose from my bed and heard the cry of a little girl calling me from the basement apartment. My grandchild had been up and playing and decided she wanted her Nana. As I entered the room she jumped up in my arms and realized how warm I was in my robe. She bowed into my warmth and let my embrace fully sink in. I was overwhelmed with delight to hold her, and warm her little self, with all of me.

So I pray this year we can bow into His goodness and warmth and know how deeply that action delights Him.

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I have no idea what 2015 will hold but I know who holds my heart in 2015.

Whispers of Wisdom

Orientation – one’s position in relation to true north, to points on the compass, or to a specific place or object.

We live in busy and stressful times with more distractions than any generation  before us.

Never before did people have devices that ding, buzz, light up and never leave us.   All those pulls on our time that falsely tell us how important we are and central to all that is happening in our world.

We are busier and more disoriented than ever.

While taking a week at the beach this week I witnessed an interaction that served as a perfect example of what we experience daily.

There was a child playing along the seashore running back and forth and in and out of the ocean. He was only about 4 years old and at first he kept his eyes on his momma while investigating the delights of the sea. He played and twirled, fully invigorated and enthralled with the waves and the sand as it splashed his feet and knees.  In his excitement he forgot to keep orienting himself to momma.  At one point he drifted a few yards away from his original spot and when he looked up, momma wasn’t there; or so he thought.  His eyes found me many yards away and in his confusion he started screaming at me and running towards me.  Momma, momma, momma, I smiled as I saw his mother rise from her place and lift her voice to orient her baby.  The boy found his momma and quickly followed her back to his original play area.

I giggled in relief as I watched this exchanged and also felt the whisper of wisdom reveal to me that I was watching a version of what I do when busy.

As the day begins I set out to center myself through prayer, worship & study. These are spiritual disciplines that have served to be my greatest source of life and orientation.  I realized by viewing this incident between parent and child that I at times commit the same mistake as the boy.  When life gets busy I stop orienting as often as I should.

Daniel in the Bible was onto something when he committed to pray and worship three times a day.  In the midst of great political turmoil and high responsibility he understood the power of orientation.

Daniel 6:10

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

When life is pressing how much more should we be stopping to orient ourselves with our true north?

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What does it mean to live fully?

What does it mean to live fully?

In one day I came upon  a glorious quote twice.
What are the odds of that happening?
Since I’m not a big believer in coincidence but a chaser of God’s fingerprints, I knew a message was trying to reach my soul.
Here is the quote –
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming/ but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails while daring greatly. So that his place will never be with those cold timid souls who know neither victory or defeat. ”
Theodore Roosevelt
To add to this delightful quote like a a perfect bookend I came upon this quote this morning.
“You can live on bland food so as to avoid an ulcer, drink no tea, coffee or other stimulants in the name of health, go to bed early, stay away from night life, avoid all controversial subjects so as never to give offense, mind your own business, avoid involvement in other poeples problems, spend money ony on necessities and save all you can.  You can still break your neck in the  bath tub, and it will serve you right.”
I had to laugh between these two quotes lays my life.  The glory lies in the risk. In my minds eye I can see the hand of Jesus standing on stormy seas, extending a hand to me and saying – come on girl, let’s walk on water.
I’m choosing to live big with my whole heart.  Maybe we can squeeze out all of life that it has to offer when we take His hand and get out of our boats of safety and false assurances.
See that bird on the top of the page. Let’s do the same today.
Throw back your head and let your life rip!

One Thing

Father in Heaven! What are we without You! What is all that we know, vast accumulation though it may be, but a chipped fragment if we do not know You! What is all our striving, could it ever encompass a world, but a half -finished work if we do not know you: You the One, who is one thing and who is all!

So may You give to the intellect

wisdom to comprehend that one thing;

to the heart,

sincerity to receive this understanding;

to the will, purity that wills only one thing.

In prosperity, may you grant

 perseverance to will one thing;

amid distractions,

collectedness to will one thing;

in suffering,

patience to will one thing.

You that give both the beginning and the completion, may You early, at the dawn of the day, give to the young the resolution to will one thing.  As the day wanes, may You give to the old a renewed remembrance of their first resolution, that the first may be like the last, the last like the first, in possession of a life that has willed one thing.

Soren Kierkegaard

Hungry Eyes

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Let me preface this with the fact that I am not a writer. I’m a woman that has found herself hopping a plane every 2 months to different countries around the world. Places that I probably couldn’t find on a map if I tried. I’ve had many profound experiences in the last 3 years but last week I fell down the rabbit hole.

I locked eyes with a little boy in India. I’m certain he has no idea that I can’t stop thinking about him.
They were dark brown and startlingly gorgeous but they screamed in hunger. Beauty and pain were intertwined and he stared at me begging for food.
He was on the outside and I was in a car. He banged on the window and I put my hand up on my side and he put his hand on mine, but glass separated us. I scrounged through my purse and backpack for any morsel of food that I might be carrying. I gave him all I had. His actions verged on violence.

I can’t even imagine being that hungry?

I’ve never seen people, especially children be that desperate. I’ve seen animals react badly when they are in need of food. These children were bordering on aggression but all they wanted was food. I know in India they are trained to beg but hunger is an unmistakable state of being.

All I could think about was my children and my grand-babies and what if they were the ones on the other side of that glass.
How could I turn away from this beautiful child and not allow myself to feel his pain. I felt something on the inside of me unraveling as if someone was pulling the yarn on my reality. I don’t know how to describe how undone I was becoming in the seconds that passed.

Our car was stuck in traffic and it took us a few minutes to pull away. By the time we did we had about 7 little ones around our car. The group of people I was traveling with started placing all their extra food on my lap. I think they realized I was losing it and they had mercy on me and the little ones banging on the car windows. I handed it all out while I while I wept and tried not to sob out loud.

One stunning little girl reached out and grasped a pomegranate. I will never forget the look on her face as she lit up as if I had handed her a feast. I couldn’t stop staring at them. A part of my brain kept saying, just look away, just look away, but I couldn’t. I wanted my eyes to say “I’m sorry, you are so beautiful, God loves you, I love you, I wish I had more to give you.”

Falling down the rabbit hole is where things don’t make sense and up is down and down is up. I’m not out of the rabbit hole yet. Something in me broke and my brain which is normally a very reliable muscle, has turned to mush. I can’t talk about it without it coming out as sobs. I can’t sleep without seeing them.

This is what I know. I can’t go forward without going back.

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Following the whisper….

“Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God’s infinite grace and power. All that God is, and all that God has, is at the disposal of prayer.  But we must use the key.  Prayer can do anything that God can do, and as God can do anything, prayer is omnipotent.  No one can stand against the man who knows how to pray and who meets all the conditions of prevailing prayer and who really prays. ‘The Lord God Omnipotent’ works for him and works through him. ” R. A. Torrey

As I am blessed with a rich community of praying people. I come before you with specific requests for a month that is rich with kingdom opportunity.  I know without a doubt that the prayers of those that love us have ushered us forward beyond anything we could have imagined for ourselves in ministry.  Especially the prayers of my parents whose prayers I depend on, and know are the first that are carried up to the ears of God as the sun rises and are repeated often before the sun sets.

This month is a bit unique as we will be visting 3 countries and 4 Squads in little over 2 1/2 weeks of travel.

We begin on the 6th on March with our travel to Haiti to visit the Squad we are coaching for the year, C Squad.

Returning on the 10th we board a new plane to Thailand on the 12th of March (yes we will only be home 1 day to repack) and will be there until the 18th.  Then on the 18th we will be in route to China until the 22nd.

During that time we will be with W,X & Y Squads.

Prayer requests –

Personal – Travel grace, minimal to no jetlag while on the field, connections of all flights, no lost luggage, health, energy and both earthy and divine connections would all be made.

Now for the good stuff –

I’m asking for a downpour of the Holy Spirit for each persons individual journey.  Only the Holy Spirit can minister to  almost 200 people and give them each exactly what they need.

That God would break down any walls that hinder them from wholeness.

That their hearts would be ministered to and healing would flow to them, and through them.

I ask for a great revelation of the love of God.

Empowerment of His Holy Spirit of their lives and teams.

Release of their gifts and talents to further the Kingdom.

Courage and boldness to permeate them through and through.

Vision to impact the Nations for the years to come.

Wholeness and Holiness of their minds, body and spirit.

Souls, souls, souls, souls, souls, souls, for the Kingdom.

Territorial strongholds would be pulled down and Kingdom ground taken all around the world.

Yes, we might as well go big, or go home!

I stand as a witness to declare that the hand of God is moving through this generation in ways that motivate me forward with fresh courage, hope and excitement.

Wrap us in Isaiah 61 and Ephesians 1:17-19

Here are a few stories from the field to stir your spirits to pray.

Krystle Desales on the A squad fell in love this month with baby Crystal in Mwanza, Tanzania. Baby Crystal has hydrocephaly which means there is fluid in her brain. Krystle started to pray… http://krystledesales.theworldrace.org/?filename=what-you-did

“I left the hospital unsettled, still thinking about Crystal and her mother. I prayed that God would just miraculously heal her. Two days after the hospital visit, I looked at my bank account and noticed someone put in one hundred dollars into my account, which is the exact amount Crystal needed for the surgery. I know that this wasn’t just some coincidence, some fluke chance that this happened…This coming Monday on February 6th, baby Crystal is having surgery.  After 11 months, finally she is receiving the miracle she has been waiting for. “

Allison Prysianzny on the W squad is in Mozambique. She writes a blog about being ‘up and healing before noon,’ and describes just another day of ministering in the bush!  Read about the healings here: http://allisonprysiazny.theworldrace.org/?filename=up-and-healing-before-noon-just-another-day-on-the-race&bookmark=true#comments

“One man in particular stands out in my memory. He showed us how he couldn’t lift his right arm and then pulled up his sleeve to show the little razor marks the witch doctor had cut into him. He said he had been there many times, but he still couldn’t lift his arm. We prayed for him and watched as he lifted his arm high above his head. PTL!”

Jamos and Emily Mitchell, also on the W squad in Mozambique, share the below story about how God showed up and moved during a spontaneous prayer time in the middle of the marketplace.  Read an excerpt below and check out more here: http://jamosandemilymitchell.theworldrace.org/?filename=african-adventure-into-the-bush

“It was around 8am and we stopped for some bread and bagia in a small town.  Let’s be real, I also wanted a Coke Zero. Felito (our pastor) wanted to see a man who he met at an outreach event 10 years earlier, who was saved and now a pastor in the town.  We met up with the elderly pastor and prayed for him before we left.  When we were done praying for him in the street, there was a crowd gathered and they wanted prayer for themselves!

First, a lady, who was selling pineapples on a blanket on the roadside wanted prayer.  She could not believe that we would pray for her – for FREE!  We were like, ‘yes, of course, we would love to pray for you’. Each time we were in a circle praying, and when one person was done, another person made their way into the circle and we surrounded them in prayer!  People would tell us if they were sick (most were) and one man had even visited a witch doctor to help with his arm, which he could not lift up at all.  The witch doctor (who you pay money to) made small cuts in his skin and he had the scars to show us. We prayed over his arm and when we were done, he could lift it above his head! Another miracle!

The praying continued for nearly 2 hours and when we were done, another man who was healed, came up to the pastor, Felito, and said, “ I want to give you land to build a church in my village – so that my village may know God and be saved” So, he hopped on the back of our truck and we headed to his village to see the land he was going to give our pastor to plant a church.  AMAZING!”

Shayna Black, Y squad, took personal money and helped feed a whole community after she heard God speak to her this week.

So, after much prayer and conversation with our contact, this is what God said to do.
“Feed the village!” -God
So this is what we did with the money:
35-25kg bags of rice
32-50pkg/box of noodles
10 skirts

It went to feed 35 different families in the village both Christian and Buddhist alike.  Here’s the crazy cool part……

Our contact later told me that he had prayed for 2 years for someone to come help him feed his village and here I was answering that prayer!”

Check out pictures here: http://shaynablack.theworldrace.org/?filename=part-2-seeing-gods-plan-photos

Stephanie May (A squad) has an incredible way of telling her story and how she is experiencing the Holy Spirit on the Race–as NOT creepy. Her whole perspective has changed because she’s seen the Spirit manifest. She’s learned to prophesy, pray in the spirit, and has witnessed healings.  Read her story here: http://stephaniemay.theworldrace.org/?filename=7A35CE9F101140A78B4227CF9A6B53

“We walked into a room that looked like every other African living room, concrete with a set of curtains and some tacky fake flowers, and sat down to wait.

A few minutes later, an old woman walked into the room.  ‘Walked’ is a stretch.  She hobbled in, dragging one of her legs, holding herself up on the crudest set of crutches I’ve ever seen. Her face was screwed up in agony, and she barely got herself the five feet to a chair before slowly and painfully lowering herself into it.

Without missing a beat, we got to work, praying for healing.   A half an hour later, I was holding the woman’s hand as she took her first pain-free steps across the floor. She walked 15 feet heading straight for the door. She stopped there, looking out at the world she had been missing, before turning and walking again.”

This is kind of a different update for Friday Updates, but this blog from Leah Malone on the C squad caught our attention. Her uncle with Downs Syndrome passed away this last week and she went home for the funeral. She writes about his life, his relationship with Jesus, and what he has taught her. It is beautiful. http://leahmalone.theworldrace.org/?filename=pancakes-on-friday

“…Thanks to my uncle, I have the most vivid picture of what that looks like [to receive the kingdom of God like a child]. For example, in the last year of his life Jerry loved his Bible. He hardly went anywhere without it. He would read his Bible all the time. The funny thing is…my uncle can’t read! You would look over and his Bible would be upside down and sideways but his lips would be muttering something 100 mph! I love it. You tell Jerry that Jesus loves him and he believes you. You tell him Jesus died for him and he says ok. You tell him he’s going to heaven and he just smiles. Pure faith…so beautiful. I decided today that I’m actually super jealous of him.”

A Micro look at a Mega church

I should begin with the fact that I am not a church hopper.  The very fact that I am in search of another church body bothers me more than it can anybody else.  I’ve belonged to one church for the last 12 years and was involved with them from the start in many different ways.  I should also add that I love them dearly and that church will never be out of my heart or spirit.  They have blessed our whole family beyond measure.

Now my husband and I are in a new stage in life and we both believe that we are following God prompts as we try to figure out a new place of worship.  Here are a few shocking discoveries for me.

  • It is extremely hard to feel welcomed or part of a huge mega service.
  • People shake your hand and hand you a bulletin but they are basically doing a job as fast as they can and it feels very automatic and not very welcoming when you don’t know anyone.
  • The lights and music can overwhelm all your senses when there isn’t any kind of introduction or easing into a service.
  • Every culture of worship is different and the only people who are comfortable with it are those that have been around for a long time.
  • In has taken months to get a response back when inquiring about belonging to a small group.

These are not criticisms but they are observations.

There are wonderful aspects to this process.  One thing is that you can feel the energy of thousands as they worship fully.  When this body of Christ focuses on a project, they are able to make a huge impact.  The teaching is great and very different than we are accustomed.

But I cannot get over how lost and like an outsider I feel weekly.  It gives me a new appreciation for how other new people are affected when they approach a service.  I’ve been following the Lord my whole life. We will be just fine as we figure out how to connect into the mega church structure but I have a new respect for how hard others have it that may be just seeking out faith issues.

Who are you?

One of life’s biggest hurdles is discovering who we really are.

Your childhood, education, philosophy of life will all color your beliefs about yourself.

Beliefs are formed by perceptions and the problem is that perceptions are both real and false.

Have you ever had to jump a few feet, say about 3ft but from where you are viewing the floor is actually more like 8 ft.  Our eyes are not located where are feet are so our perception is telling us something that is not true.  But it sure does feel true.

Courage has to step in and have faith (believe) that what looks like 8 ft is really 3ft.

When it comes to our true identity we have to push forward in courage to believe that we are who God says we are.  We are the redeemed, beloved, chosen children of God.  We are the desire of God.

The struggle lies in the fact that we act what we believe and very few of us believe the very heart of God.  We choose our misperceptions, the comments delivered to wound us, the message that culture screams at us.  Or even the mistakes that we believe reveal our true selves.

Here is a mind-blowing truth.  We have the power to CHOOSE our beliefs.

So why is it that we often choose to believe a nasty lie over the truths of scripture?

Here are a couple of big reasons.

The lies feel true and hope hurts.

Somewhere in life we have discovered that something we believed in or wanted was not what we hoped for and it hurt.

We felt that pain and decided it was bad and some of us decided to safe guard our hope.

Here in lies the problem – without hope we cannot believe God.

If faith was a balloon then it is hope that fills it up.

Hope and faith are partners.

We unintentionally cripple our faith and replace it with fear, anger, or apathy because we decided that hope was to painful to endure.

If you want to wake up to the beauty and potential of your life then you are going to have to dig out your hope, extend it in faith,  push past your fears and BELIEVE GOD.

Jump people, its only 3 ft and at the end of that jump is the loving arms of God.

His plan for your life is beyond your imagination.