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Fret Not

Do not fret because of evil men

or be envious of those who do wrong;

For like the grass they will soon wither,

like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good.

Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Delight yourself in the Lord

and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;

Trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness

shine like the dawn,

the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.

Do not fret when men succeed in their ways,

when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn away from wrath;

Do not fret it leads only to evil.

For evil men will be cut off,

But those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

~Psalm 37:1-9

 

How a seed bears fruit {Making 2012 Productive}

I’ve thought of it ever since October, how to take the seed of a day and turn it into the fruit of a year. How can I be like Isaac, who “sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold?” (Genesis 26:12)

How does the labor of the small become the fruit of the harvest? A simple, ordinary woman needs to know.

Is there really a way to reap one hundred fold?

So when Pastor preached on Mark 4 three months ago, the passage about the keys to the kingdom of heaven being given to us, a seed burrowed in and took root and it’s been there, gestating and shaping my habits.

There is a way to reap a hundredfold.

The heart that receives the seed, retains it, and perseveres in it is the one who bears fruit, up to one hundred times what was planted.

It’s not just hearing that makes one fruitful. It’s not just knowing the Word. It is not getting excited and pumped about the Word that makes one fruitful. It is doing it.

And not just doing it once or twice… it is taking up a clear, specific “word” and working at it, sticking with it, persevering in it.

Sadly, this approach is often neglected in our spiritual training. We are taught to gain more and more biblical knowledge and to accumulate information. We go through a bible study, then move on to the next one.

Bible knowledge is indeed important.

But to bear fruit, a single seed will do, planted in the soil that receives it, retains it, and perseveres in it.

In all our knowledge gathering, we need to know how to take a very clear, specific word that God gives us and weave it into our lives. We need to become practiced at persevering.

I ponder these things for weeks and one day the dawn gives way to noonday as I think of Ann’s example. She has taken up the word “eucharisteo” and made it her practice, her lifestyle. This is a word God gave her to overcome her agoraphobia and self-loathing and she received it, retained it, and persevered in it. She worked it into her makeup.

And oh, the fruit is there, for all to see.

With Ann’s example, it is so easy to see what it looks like, what it means to take a specific seed that God gives you, a Word to live by, take it up and keep working it.

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Luke 8:15

All it takes to be overflowing with fruit is a single seed, properly planted.

So what is your seed?  What specific word has God given you to persevere in?

Take it up, work it, and see it blossom and bear fruit.

Invitation to Feast {With Guidelines for Online Time}

 

Everyone was rushing.

Everyone was gushing.

Everyone was talking and going and doing and I thought I had to be on the going train too.

It was the latest, coolest, most important thing.

But every time I got to the station, the train had already filled up and closed it’s doors and there wasn’t room for me.  I could see the laughter and fun and partying going on inside.

“It looks so warm in there. So necessary to really thriving.” I thought this as the train slowly passed me by.

“Everybody who’s anybody is in there,” I thought as the last car passed, leaving only the wind to brush my face.

So I tried to make the next train.

Then the next.

Until finally, with each defeated attempt, I realized. God doesn’t want me on the train tracks.

He has another path for me.

{And I have a feeling it involves hiking.}

It seems to me that many of us are spending our lives trying to make the social train, or the success train, or the have-it-all-and-quick! train… not realizing that perhaps God wants us off the tracks altogether.

Dare we hear the Lover’s voice beckon?

“So I am going to take her into the desert again; there I will win her back with words of love.” Hosea 2:14

Would we slow enough to understand that it is in the absence that God reveals Himself?

It isn’t in the bustling, moving and shaking that God woos and speaks tenderly. It’s in the deprivation.

 

And this week when our tables pile high and shopping bags bulge, would we sit down to a fare of broken body and atoning blood?

It’s the bread and the wine and Abraham knew it: Less can be better.

More…prosperity…abundance…nightstands piled high and inboxes overflowing…sales pitches for everything under the sun…they can send a very subtle message, deadly in its power. The more I have, the more I think I need... The more I’m convinced I don’t have.

Will I, like Abraham, be vigilant to guard my heart against subtle {and not so subtle} messages that draw me away from the simplicity and sufficiency of Christ?

 

 ”The whole idea of television (and I would add advertising and promoting and many other things) is to produce discontent. The goal is to make you discontent so that you think you need something you don’t have. The goal is to make you buy things. The idea is to appeal to your discontent and make you believe you need something and compel you to buy something you think you need.” John MacArthur

{And will I be honest enough to recognize that our Christian culture is just as consumer-driven as the worldly culture around us?}

 

“O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?”

Just like the Galatian believers were drawn away from the pure gospel of Christ with extra “things,” I’ve found it doesn’t take a whole lot to “bewitch” me. I see an ad for some Christian bible study or a conference or a latest resource from so and so, and I’m off thinking I need it.

And just because something is good and available, doesn’t mean it is right for me. Because it can actually distract me from Christ.

Let no one tempt you away from the simplicity of Christ.

For in HIM we live and breathe and have our being.

And we are complete in Him.

So this week, my prayer for you and I: as we feast and shop, may we enter the desert place and eat the richest of fares. May we withdraw to the quiet place. May we come aside with our Lover and drink deeply of Him. May we set aside all the good stuff for the Precious. And may we be filled.

 

**When I started blogging a year ago, I realized the unique dangers of spending time online: being sucked into trying to build a blog or get in on all the online social stuff, etc. I realized there are so many temptations away from the simplicity of Christ! So I established some mental guidelines for when I’m online. I’ve been practicing these for some time and they have helped tremendously. {This means I am very careful about my online time, even with good, Christian sites.}

Guidelines for online time:

Ask, “What message am I coming away with?”  When you feel competition, insecurity, inadequacy, or performance/ self-reliance (and a host of others) rising up within you, this is a good indicator that you are at the wrong place for you. If what you read encourages your faith and motivates you in what you already know God has called you to do and points you back to Christ, then that’s a safe spot for you to be online.

Learn what sites incite you to fleshly reliance and pursuits and what sites spark your faith and reliance on God. Black list the first ones (yes, even if it is Facebook!)

Does this site make you a spiritual consumer or a spiritual server? Does it prompt you to go consume more Christian resources and stir a spirit of discontent? Or does it cause you to turn to your husband, child, or neighbor and wash their feet?

Coming back to these helps me make wise decisions about where I go and what I do online…and have deep peace and satisfaction about whatever trains I may miss…

 

For the Exhausted, Fatigued, Overwhelmed Believer~ Let’s Have Church, Shall We?

Night after night, husband works late at the library.

And I cook dinner and do homework and bathe the kids alone and try to sing instead of sigh and by the time husband gets home the clock blinks 10:33pm and I’m in bed, exhausted.

Furlough does not mean rest this time. It means long hours, hard hours, lonely hours, unceasing drive.

I wonder how much he can take, how much I can handle, preparing to go back to a people we’ve never lived amongst.

But this I know…those wonderings are the devil’s bait. If I bite there, I’m caught in the old doubting patterns. I’m the prey on his hook and he reels me in by feeding me line after line about my insufficiency and everything I’ve got to do and my limitations and all the barriers and potential pitfalls and soon I’m in his boat, out of the Water of Life.

A fish can’t live out of water and I can’t live without breathing in Living Water.

There are some roads we each have to travel down before we learn how to avoid them.

If we are weak… and aware of it… our enemy will try to keep our weakness ever in front of us. He knows we will never discover our life hidden in Christ if we are focused on our flesh-limited lives.

I’ve been caught on that bait so many times it isn’t even possible to number. Getting out of the trap, that destructive habitual pattern of thinking, seems impossible.

But with each new day, there comes another chance, another hope, another possibility: I can stay in the Water today. I can live from my identity hidden with Christ.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3″1-3

The only way to live beyond myself is to focus my mind beyond myself. The way to live in the heavenlies is to put my mind there. This is a spiritual discipline Christ wants each of His children to learn. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

What will I meditate on? My problems? My feelings? My limitations?

No, “I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your  wonderful works.” Psalm 145:5 It is a vow I’ve made before the Lord.

Perhaps the place for the weak and fatigued to start meditating is on the opposite, contrasting characteristic of God? Can the weak really say they are strong in Christ? Can the feeble truly experience the unfaltering power of God? Can the young man who stumbles really rise up on wings like eagles?

The Bible says it is so.

Therefore, I will Ponder the Power of God. Here are the scriptures I am bringing to mind as exhaustion and fatigue set in. When I feel overwhelmed, I recite Psalm 145:5 and deliberately focus my mind on God’s power. If you friend me on Facebook, there’s also a link there to an inspirational video on God’s power.

“He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature and upholds all things by the word of His power…” Hebrews 1:3

“Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.” I Chronicles 29:12

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.” Isaiah 40:28-29

“Man goes forth to his work And to his labor until evening. They all wait for You, To give them their food in due season. You give to them, they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good.” Psalm 104:23,27-28

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know…the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe…” Ephesians 1:18-19

“So that you will be…strengthened with all power according to His glorious might.” Colossians 1:10-11

“For the eyes of the Lord roam throughout the whole earth that He may strongly support all those whose heart is completely His.” II Chronicles 16:9

 

As I bathe wriggly, tired children, I ponder the sun, that blazing body of energy. It burns day and night, giving light and heat to first one side of the globe, then the other. It is held together and sourced by the Sustainer of Life, just one average expression of His burning power.

As I intervene in a sibling scuffle, I meditate on the “black matter” in space. There is nothing there yet  a gravitational force still pulls. Scientists are baffled; but Christians are not. I ponder the mighty upholding Presence of God in places billions of light years away. His presence that can’t help but draw and pull close.

And I hear Him speak to me. “You’ve asked to know Me, My child. Let’s begin here, with My power, shall we?” 

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection…” Phil 3:10

“And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Romans 8:11

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13

 

How to live Well-Watered

 

 

For weeks, its been dry around here.

The sunflowers all withered up to a brown crisp and the crepe myrtle holding her blossoms tight, like un-opened gifts. It’s just too dry to be giving blessings.

The lack of water carries a cost and all of us groan it, waiting for waters to nourish and restore.

6:02 am and I lay in bed unable to move. Several consecutive nights up with sick children have left me spent… A husband miles away tending to his own father…And when was the last time I sat down with my bible for a really good drink?

I’m oh, so thirsty. I don’t know how I’m going to make the demands of another day. Really.

Just like our bodies are scripted to respond to thirst… Parched mouths and weak bodies send signals to our brains that say, “Your survival is at stake! Find water immediately!”… so we have emotional scripts that trigger those distress signals.

We are programmed with alerts that sound when we are in danger of getting in over our heads. It’s the part memory plays, because even for memories we can’t consciously “remember,” our limbic system knows when danger lurks. It never forgets the past, adoption has taught me that.

My signal is screaming now, telling me I’ve got to find relief and fast.

Red alert. Danger. You’re going to be overwhelmed and you know you can’t handle this. You are on empty and in peril.

Like many, my script was written in childhood. That’s when I experienced a drought so dark and severe that it seared a message deep in my memory, the message that says to avoid similar situations at all costs. When the demands begin and the resources are few, the script is replayed and I respond. I bark at the children. I’m short with my husband. I don’t give my best. I fight or I withdraw. I operate like my reserves are low and back up isn’t coming. I’m in survival mode.

I lay there in bed, listening to my scripts. The clock steadily ticks, moving away from 6:02 and bringing the day on, ready or not. “You can’t do this,” the messages relay. “You are too tired.” “You need rest, a good quiet time, help with the kids, community with others…”

And with each message, I’m pummeled against the pillows, dead weight body.

“Help me, Jesus.” I don’t speak the words, hardly even believe them, but they reside deep within and He does too and He responds.

“I will multiply your seed for sowing,” He says.

I laugh. I laugh because yesterday He and I talked at length about the widow in I Kings 17, the one whose oil jar never ran dry and whose flour bag never went empty. And I knew then He wanted me to hold onto that, that my provisions will never run out.

Except this time, today, it isn’t flour He’s giving, but seed. He wants me to toil, to work, to plant, to invest in these little ones knocking at my bedroom door. He wants me to sow seed.

And I’ve been up all night!

At first, I don’t want to listen to it. It means that I’ve got to give up my hopes, my desires for rest and reprieve. It means I’ve got to accept no provision but His grace and believe that His grace is sufficient.

But really, there is no choice but grace. This isn’t a fairy tale world I’m living in…but is grace really better?

“You will multiply my seed for sowing,” I pray back and know in this moment is where a lifestyle is formed. Here is where a woman is made and here is where a single choice makes all the difference of a lifetime.

I swing my legs over the side of the bed and I latch on like a dry, hungry infant who’s belly needs filling and doesn’t a baby learn that milk fills, satisfies, nourishes? And can’t I take in the word like milk, find it sufficient to fill all my dry places?

The clock reads 6:42. I don’t feel ready for this. But faith isn’t a feeling. It’s an action. So I stand on hardwood floor and I rewrite the script of my life, from “I can’t” to “He will.”

“He will multiply my seed…He will multiply…He will.”

Like dryness, living well watered can become a lifestyle. It happens one drink at a time, one baby step after another, one choice at a time,  rejecting the old script and replacing it with the new.

In the kitchen, I notice it rained outside during the night. The skies are still gray with moisture. Finally.

And the crepe myrtle has opened her gifts overnight. I steal a peek and see white blossoms against dark sky.

Related Scripture: Psalm 78:20-22 Remember, God speads a table in the wilderness!

Nourished

 

 

 

It’s been 5 weeks since she stopped cold turkey.

The doctor says the nicotine is flushed out of her body by now, and not a minute too soon~ it was killing her. But still.

Still, she gets the cravings and they are harsh. Still, when she reaches that point in the road on her drive to work, she starts shaking. She’s jittery and she’s a wreck and she doesn’t want to die but it’s not just a chemical dependency she’s been fighting~ it’s a mental and emotional one too.

Shame, like a cigarette, is addictive. Rejection and anger and hatred and self-loathing are like Egypt’s strong onions, garlic, leek, and fish. The Israelites craved strong when they made their exodus.

Their bodies shook and their minds twisted and their mouths watered for that which was best left behind. We can be addicted to death.

Yet there’s a way through the wilderness. There’s a substitute for leeks and garlic. There’s manna from heaven.

And like the Israelites, I gather daily, just enough for each day; and I gather early, before the sun comes up and the opportunity is gone.

I eat words and words are my bread.

They gathered a day’s portion and stored it perhaps in a jar. I place my portion on index cards and carry them with me. When the pangs come and the cravings come and I feel I’ll die if I don’t have Egypt’s strong drink, I pull out those cards.

“The Lord is my Shepherd,” I read aloud and inhale the words, taste them. “I shall not want.”

Bread from heaven becomes my daily bread.

It seems neither palatable nor powerful in the moment…after the intense and dramatic meat pots I’ve eaten from. Yet with every mouthful, I am nourished in ways I can’t see and I’m one more meal removed from Egypt’s death pots.

We learn to let go of Egypt by replacing toxic enticements with the simple and pure Bread of Life…

…not discounting it because it carries no odor.

…not despising it because it seems boring.

…not pushing it away because it is foreign and we don’t understand it.

The instruction of the Lord is to gather it daily, let it become your new food.

We eat Words and Words become flesh, our new self. Word is how God takes form and dwells among us.

It’s been that way since the beginning, the Word speaking into existence new life, form from void. And doesn’t He promise that His Word will always go forth and accomplish what He intends? It will never return empty, never be without shape. God-Word always takes on form, becomes flesh, creates new life, manifests Divine dimensions.

So we eat Word manna and it works power inside us, shaping and forming Christ Himself within. Dare I overlook this simple faith act of eating words? Do I relegate it to only a duty or obligation? Or can I eat in faith, trusting for a nourishment and sustainment beyond my imagination?

Yes!

I tuck my portion into my pocket and feast all day long. What words are you eating today?        

{This post inspired by Exodus 16}

To those afflicted in mind or emotion

They say still waters run deep and I’ve always been deep and still. But sometimes words bubble up, don’t know where to go, crash around inside.

So I get up and bang a few out here in this space.

My aunt, she lost her mind. Emotional weakness has always been part of my family, that and the mental. The older I get, the closer to me it seems to come…and I’ve wondered if I’ll be plumb swept away in the torrent.

And yet.

I’ve pondered long on great men and women of the faith, men like Charles Spurgeon and Martin Luther, women like Mother Teresa. Those who deeply struggled internally, fiercely fought depression, grasped at faith with phantom claws.

And I’ve come to a conclusion or two.

We understand and even extend special graces to those with physical, relational, or health-related afflictions. We assume they have learned hard lessons and we grant them our time and attention. We believe that God uses affliction and surely their lives must be a mural on which He is painting a sacred story.

So we listen. We honor. We watch in awe. We learn.

But when it comes to emotional or mental affliction, we recoil.

It’s part of our American mind-set: if you are “spiritual,” then you will be “happy in Jesus.”

If you aren’t happy in Jesus, going through your days on spiritual cloud 9, then you are not spiritually mature and you have not found the secret to living the Christian life.

There is a lot in the Scriptures that talk about the mind, no doubt. Such as instruction to live transformed by renewing it; and we are kept in perfect wholeness by fixing it on God.

However, nowhere in scripture is there implication that keeping the mind stayed on Christ is simple or quick. Or painless for that matter. Neither does the Bible say that our adversary will quietly allow us to take mental and emotional territory from him without any sort of onslaught!

The truth is that when you have learned and lived by poor habits in thinking and have been ruled by your feelings, conquering that spiritual battle is all out war and there is nothing easy or convenient about it.

This I know.

I am absolutely loving reading through David’s life in my One Year Chronological Bible), because it intersperses the Psalms he wrote at the place in his life scholars best guess he wrote them.

In this way, with a simple read-through, you see him fighting Goliath…then singing a psalm….running from Saul…then fighting for faith in composing a psalm…hiding out from enemies…then pouring his heart out to God in song.

It sort of sounds like a man mentally and emotionally afflicted.

Why did God allow, even ordain, David to live so many years running from Saul, moving from cave to cave, no safe place to settle down? He was God’s elect! He was God’s anointed! He was royalty.

God’s chosen, living the nomadic life of the outcast.

Why? Because affliction of all sorts are meant to train us in the same thing:

“And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.” I Sam. 23:16

“David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered…But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” I Sam. 30:6

And to the two women who labored hard alongside Paul but who struggled relationally, Paul told the body to “help these women!” How? By coming alongside of them and showing them how to “rejoice in the Lord always.” (Phil. 4:1-4)

Paul himself gives this testimony: “For we do not want you to be ignorant of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;
“Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.” (II Cor. 1:8-9)

It is clear to me that our mental and emotional afflictions can serve the purposes of God just as much as other types of afflictions, and they all boil down to one aim: finding our strength, hope, very life itself in nothing but Christ.

Are you afflicted today? Don’t add condemnation to your affliction! Accept your affliction as the tool of God to bring you to a place where He is the sole object of your trust.

Instead of fighting against the affliction, Practice strengthening yourself in the character of God (which is another fight of sorts, but don’t lose heart! You are now fighting with purpose.)

Then rejoice! For this is the place of great strength, the place
where you walk in Christ on your high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

In the Footsteps of those noble…

Happy Independence Day…

Finding God on Bellevue Street

The sign reads “Bellevue Bedding” and I’ve driven by it every Wednesday for the last month.

It’s a run down warehouse with bars on the windows located next to the housing projects with the police cars out front, but still there is something about it.

It always has the “open” sign on the door when I drive by and we need a bed for youngest who has outgrown his crib. Nothing fancy is necessary, just a frame and mattress.

So every Wednesday I’ve thought to stop in, but there is always a twinge of the cultural thing, the reasoning that says a white woman alone has no business rolling down her car window in this part of town, much less exiting it.

So I haven’t. Until Wednesday.

Wednesday, after speech therapy with Little Bit was over, the open sign on the door was like a magnet and I don’t know why it ended up the way it did, only that it was God and when I drove by I saw another woman- a woman like me- sitting on the doorsteps so I swung into the gravel lot.

I stepped inside with Little Bit and it wasn’t a warehouse I was in but a tiny, one room, un-air conditioned office and there’s not a bed in sight. The woman disappeared somewhere and out stepped an elderly gentleman and asked what he could do for me.

“Um, I’m looking to buy a bed frame.” I stammered, but the man seemed harmless, so I added, “If it’s available?”

I’m aware of the fact that women like me don’t visit places like this. We do our shopping other places. I’d like to think it’s the missionary in me that is willing to go into the dark and dangerous, but that would be giving me far too much credit.

It’s the Spirit that compels.

Funny thing, I’ve learned I don’t want to miss His compelling, no sirree.

“Sure,” he says, they have frames and I tell him I’m looking for a twin and he shows me what he’s got back in the warehouse. We enter the dusty storeroom and a man named Wayne is in there, trying to pry something open.

It’s when I’m writing the check for the $37.70 that he asks for my ID and I dig in bag that carries books, diapers, wipes, notepads, and everything else a mother of 4 might have use for…only to find the id is missing.

It’s not just the id that’s missing. It’s connection. There’s some reason why I pulled in here today, reason more than a bedframe but I can’t connect with it and I’m lost, tossing, trying, missing.

I need the Spirit tether or I’m going to walk out of here missing the treasure that I know’s intended.

I dig some more in the mommy bag, assuring Mr. Jerry that I do have the missing ID…somewhere….I’ll just have to empty it to find it, and I take out my Bible and place it on the office desk.

“What’s that green book,there?” he asks me.

“It’s a Bible,” I tell him. “It’s a daily Bible which means you read a little bit a day and it’s in chronological order so you read the events of the Bible as they actually happened in real time.”

And he asks me what church I go to and I start talking and he does too and I know this is a kindred spirit and this is why that sign is a magnet and the Spirit is in this place and He is giving connection. A gift.

“72 years ago, my mama walked these streets with a baby in her womb and entered a church here for help and my mama, she came to know Jesus.”

Wayne has come in from the warehouse and he’s sitting in a chair behind me. “God’s in everything,” Mr. Jerry tells me. “You may not believe that, but He is.”

I murmur that I do agree, and he has no idea how much I believe it at the moment, this sacred moment gifted to me, this Spirit filled transendence. This thin place.

“Wayne here’s learned that. He used to be homeless.” Then with a twinkle in his eye he said, “But he’s not anymore,” and I know that Wayne has found his real Home and I rejoice at the beacon of light this place is in the midst of darkness.

“Thank you,” I tell him. “Thank you for what you are doing here, being a light in this place.” I am touched to the core for a white man who’s stayed behind to hold the torch when others moved on to nicer neighborhoods.

Sometimes you just feel so alone in the fight.

I still can’t find driver’s license and Mr. Jerry’s desk is beginning to pile up with my contents.

“Tell you what,” he says. “forget the id, just answer this question: do you believe in the literal death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and are you trusting solely in Him for your salvation?”

“Yes.”

Nothing more needs to be said. The Name fills the void. The connection has been made. We’re on solid ground.

He tucks the check into a desk drawer, hands me a written receipt, we’re done.

But I do wonder…I feel the Spirit and can’t help but take the chance, wring every bit of profit from the gift of this encounter, so I take the plunge.

“Can I ask you a question?” I pause and he stops short and looks at me straight.

I glance behind me at Little Bit, who is sitting still, looking at a book. Wonder!

“How do you stay strong?” I ask him and my voice cracks a bit and my eyes? Well they do that silly thing again, fill up out of nowhere.

And this 72 year old man, he calls me sister and gives me words I can’t repeat. Just tells me to get prostrate for however long it takes, to stay prayed up. He tells me things a stranger doesn’t normally say, but he can ’cause his gray hair has earned him that right and I did ask for it and I want to hear it. He tells me I’m selfish and want things my way, but that it isn’t about me, it’s about Him and he reminds me this world is not my home.

I hear him tell me to keep saying “Yes, Lord.”

Wayne loads the frame and Mr. Jerry walks me outside and says, “That gal in there? The one you saw on the front steps? She’s baptized last Sunday. Used to walk these streets hooking up with everything that came by. Wayne, well I found him sleeping in the parking lot 6 years ago. Homeless. But not anymore.”

“It’s not about me.” He says it and it carries weight ’cause he’s lived it. “It’s not about you. It’s not about doing what you want. It’s doing what He gives.”

“Would you pray with me?” I ask him, again wanting to receive every blessing from this visit, greedy woman that I am.

I leave there with tears falling down my face. I know Mr. Jerry thinks I’m a basket case, I know he does. But I’m not a basket case, I’m just reminded that God wants me to live out of my weakness and it starts right now.

In a world that says, “Make a name for yourself, look out for yourself, spend all your resources on yourself and your own…” here is someone who got left behind when everyone else moved on…and he choose to stay.

He chose to stay behind because he knew it wasn’t about him, it’s never about us.

And staying true to His kingdom means you’re not going to do or look like everyone else around you, even brothers and sisters who’ve forgotten whose kingdom we’re trying to build.

Maybe it means you’re the only light on Bellevue street, long after everyone else has left the place.

Maybe it means your the only one visiting that abortion clinic, the only one knocking on doors, the only one walking dusty streets, the only one determined to keep loving, keep drawing, keep casting the net.

But here’s what I learned Wednesday when I walked in Bellevue Bedding: it only looks like your the only one. The next street over, there’s another, and a block down the road, there’s yet another, and God has His faithful one spread all over this entire globe.

“I have kept 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal…” I Kings 19:18

If we can get our eyes off of what everyone else is doing and how they must be enjoying their air-conditioned places on rolling hills…and instead commit to loving the unlovable in our parking spot… the Wayne and the Connie and the child who throws tantrums and spills messes and the husband who’s hurt us…

well maybe we just might encounter the spirit and presence of God and find that’s really what we’ve been longing for all along.

Right there in the projects on Bellevue Street.

How to Know God

heart of the night

I take 3 littlest ones outside to jump in the rain.

Big drops splatter our faces and feet as we laugh and hold hands. As always, I look for the rainbow. It isn’t there, but I see a hole in the clouds, a hand-span of blue amidst the gray.

“Wouldn’t it be odd…” I murmur as I watch the clouds move. Sure enough, they position themselves just so: a perfect heart.

“Look!” I tell the kids. “See the love God sent us?”

Even the three year old sees the obvious and I wonder why God is so good, so lavish, so recklessly ridiculous in His love?

 

Maybe it’s that we get what we look for.

And maybe we must learn how to see.

Surely there comes a time when we realize we are the ones to lead little ones in to possess the promises and we start seeking Him like never before and He can’t resist an invitation like that and He shows up. Even in clouds. Even in rain. Even in dirty mess our muddy feet will make going back inside.

Later, I drive in the rain, down country roads and onto city streets, merge onto the interstate and travel down Sam Cooper Highway. I take the long drive with Little Bit to see a speech therapist and we drive through housing projects and pass by 5 city police cars parked out front with their lights on and guns out.

We drive down the street that used to be famous but now is just lined with leaning telephone poles and an occasional user sticking his head out for fresh air.

That’s when I see it.

It’s the sign at Zion Temple. It reads not about free Zumba classes on Tuesdays…not about upcoming women’s bible study with so and so… not about VBS adventures starting soon… It simply reads, “Be still and know that I am God.”

And the inside of me stirs, that quiet place I’m learning to live from, the Spirit place. Maybe, just maybe, He still self-discloses, oh yes!

Like He revealed Himself to Abram as El Shaddai and to Hagar as El Roi and to Moses as Yahweh and to the disciples as Jesus, dare I be still enough, this moment, to know His self-disclosure for myself?

The life in me breathes deep and I feel the Spirit’s “Yes!” and I know He is so for me.

And I wonder at how I ever got to this place, this good, good land. Isn’t it by practicing just that? The Zion Temple’s declaration? The being still?

Being still is contrary to human nature, this I know. We’d just about do anything else, spiritual or carnal. We are trained to do other things, things that keep us spiritually busy…we are applauded for doing spiritual activity and having spiritual appearances. But things that keep us spiritually still? No, we don’t learn this from human teachers, this stillness of heart and quietness of soul, this gentleness not tied to our external surroundings or our efforts.

“Quit trying to make your own way.” The words come as I sit in the waiting room with Little Bit. Yes, that’s the essence of being still.

Like a bushman with a machete making his way through the jungle, I’ve fought to find the path of faith. I’ve expended myself to find stillness. Because my externals are not still and I can’t have long quiet times and monastery like conditions conducive to peaceful meditation.

I’ve found stillness is not performance. Not good “activity.” Not cultural, consumer Christianity. Rather, I’ve discovered the stillness where one encounters the self-disclosure of God in the recessess of your very own soul.

What I’ve discovered motivates me to pave the path wider and tread it again and again, making the path so familiar and worn it simply becomes the new way of life, the very blood in my veins.

Back at home, I run hand in hand with the girls. Dinner needs to be cooked. House needs picking up. Kids need baths. But I’m thinking of the heart in the sky and the stillness in my soul and the rain in our hair.

So we run to the sound of thunder.

 

P.S. Welcome to our new home! So glad you are here. May I plump your pillow? I’m a tad fidgety in this new place, it seems a bit fancy. Make yourself at home, have a look around and I’ll feel much better…

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