God Encounters ~ Part Three; Maleficent offers a message of Hope!

Maleficent

After going through a season of loss, it is hard to allow yourself to dream again.  There is something beautiful and freeing about surrender.  Lay all my dreams down and cling to God alone?  Sure, I can do that.

But what happens when I feel dreams stirring in my heart again?  Old dreams.  New dreams.  Forgotten dreams.

It should thrill me and fill my heart with excitement…but instead, I feel fear.  The fear of being disappointed again.  The fear of being wrong, of being foolish, of going around that same painful circle again.

God sent me a message that gave me permission to dream again.  And he sent it through a famous Disney villain – Maleficent!

If you haven’t seen the new live action movie, Maleficent, you might want to watch it before reading this article (I don’t want to ruin any surprises for you).  I never had any interest in seeing this movie.  I hate Disney villains!  They are so scary!  I don’t let my small children watch them.  Yet when the movie Maleficent came on the TV, I was drawn in.  Maleficent was a young girl with piercing eyes.

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She was a powerful fairy.  In fact, after the death of her parents, it fell to her to protect the fairy kingdom of the Moors.  She didn’t look at all like a fairy with great horns growing out of her head and massive, dark wings.  Yet she was wise and good.

I was captivated when I watched her flying with her strong wings,  joyous and free, shaping the clouds with the force of her flight.  I wished to do the same!  My recent obsession with eagles that I wrote about in “God Encounters ~ Part Two”, fueled the desire that I could enjoy that same freedom that Maleficent had.

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She trusted a young boy even though humans were usually enemies of her kingdom.  She and the human fell in love, and on her 16th birthday, the boy gave her, “true love’s kiss.”  Her trust was rewarded by abandonment and an empty heart.  Soon the boy forgot about her in his ambition to become King.

Years passed.  That boy had become a man and returned to Maleficent with kind words.  She forgave him and let him into her heart again, only to be betrayed. The man had intended all along to kill her, for whoever killed Maleficent, the great protector of the Moors, would be given the human kingdom that wanted to conquer it.  This man couldn’t bring himself to kill the dark and beautiful creature he had once loved.  So instead he drugged her and cut off her wings, thinking that this would be all the proof that was needed.

Normally I am not that deeply impacted by a Disney fairy tale, but this time I truly grieved for Maleficent.  To see her painfully crippled by the one that she loved hit close to home.  I could feel her pain.  What a tragedy for her to be earthbound when she was created to fly!  The sorrow and suffering turned into bitterness in Maleficent’s heart, and she cursed the daughter of her betrayer, Aurora.

Aurora was so sweet, so happy, so innocent, and so defenseless that Maleficent began to love the child despite herself.  She became Aurora’s sustainer and defender, her “fairy Godmother.”  As I watched Maleficent’s heart turn from unforgiveness to love, I still felt so sad.  Sad to see her only a shell of what she once was.  Yet that happens to many of us in this life.  I comforted myself with the thought that even if our physical bodies are broken and our circumstances are prison-like, we can still be free on the inside.  Our spirits can still soar above the clouds in God’s presence.  Still, we long to see restoration with our physical eyes.

Maleficent tried to renounce the curse she had put on Aurora, but she could not.  When Aurora turned 16 and fell into the death sleep, Maleficent showed no concern for her own life when she brought a prince into the castle to give Aurora “true love’s kiss” and break the spell.  It didn’t work!  Maleficent was heartbroken, coming face to face to with the fear that has always haunted her – there was no such thing as true love.  She promised to always protect the sleeping girl.  When Maleficent stooped to kiss the one she truly loved with a selfless devotion, the spell was broken!  Aurora was awakened!

The king, now a tortured and crazy man, did not even notice that his daughter was well again, so intent was he on killing Maleficent.  Aurora ran from the battle and came upon Maleficent’s wings, locked in a glass case.  They were still alive and flapping!  This was something I never expected!  Cut off a body part and it surely dies.  In the years that had passed, they would have decayed and been long gone…yet here they were, as strong and true as ever.

Aurora shattered the case and the powerful wings were reunited with their owner, carrying her above the battle.  Maleficent’s true identity had been restored, and it was a wonder to behold.  This was a miracle!  I was rejoicing!  This is the type of miracle that only happens in fairy tales…or is it?

Could this just be a message from God to get my attention, to lead me to the real miracle of the restoration of all things found in Is 35 and again in Is 65 all throughout the Bible?  This will really happen in all people and to the entire earth…someday.

But what about right now, inside of me?

Could it be that God is restoring my true identity – the parts of me that were stolen or crippled?  My true self, my purpose and all of the freedom and thrill and excitement that comes along with it?  Could God be storing up all of the dreams I ever had, all the dreams He ever had for me?

-before they got trampled and crushed by life.

-before I experienced betrayal and pain.

-before I hear the words “You can’t,” “You shouldn’t,” “You Never Will!”

-before I morphed into a shell of what I was created to be, a wingless eagle living in the dirt.

Could those wings of mine be alive and viable somewhere?

Perhaps I WILL feel the wind rushing around me!

Perhaps I will rise above the earth again.

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Perhaps I will see the miracles I once expected.

Perhaps I will be whole and strong.

Perhaps I really will be a fearless one!

Perhaps I  was born to fly!

And perhaps you were too…

 

 

 

God Encounters ~ Part Two: The Sky and the Ocean

It has been a difficult season for me, being sandwiched between the needs of my children and my mom.  I feel so busy, so responsible, and so drained that it is almost suffocating.

Yet, all this is pushing me deeper into God.  I am asking for strength and for wisdom.  I am asking for His love to flow through me when I am empty.  I am listening for His voice.  He has answered me with the most beautiful string of encounters with His presence.

                One – The Wind

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One February night I was having a quiet time in my room.  I turned on some “Bethel Without Words” and just sat in the music.  I felt God’s presence.  It was like a wind blowing through me and around me.  I was reminded of my childhood, when I used to climb the maple tree in my front yard.  I loved to climb as high as I could, until the branches got thin enough to sway gently in the wind.  I felt a breathless exhilaration.  I felt peace and joy.  I felt the wind.

                “That was me,” I heard God whisper.  “The wind was my presence.  I have always been with you, even before you knew me.”

The presence of God was so sweet.  It blew away my fears and left me feeling refreshed and new and loved.  I practiced trying to find this “Wind of His Presence” during the course of my day; when I was stressed about all I had to do, when I was worried that I wasn’t enough, when I felt my frustration rise and my sanity shaken.  I would close my eyes and feel the wind softly rock me back and forth, like a mother rocking her baby.  I was safe and loved, and this reality was where I wanted to live every hour of every day.

                Two – The Heartbeat of Love

About two weeks later I was enjoying worship at my church on a Sunday morning.  It is so easy to connect with the presence of God in that place.  I felt the wind again.  Then it began to pulse through me like a heartbeat.  I began to awaken to the truth that this love was also pulsing through everything everywhere…All THE TIME!  The universe was founded and built by His love.  It is operating and expanding by His love still.  This love is alive and active like the wind blowing, like a river flowing, like blood being pumped through every cell.

This was challenging my current world view.  I had seen the world as a very cold and hard place much of the time, full of dangers and toxins that I had to protect my children from.  Many scenes that flashed through my mind were not pretty; broken down cities full of corruption, once beautiful wilds polluted and dying, great mountains of decaying garbage inhabited by sick and hopeless humanity.   Yet God was telling me that His love was pulsing through all of this.  Scenes of great evil, people experiencing unspeakable horrors at the hands of other people, also flashed through my mind.

“There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still…”

I knew that Corrie ten Boom had said this after living through a concentration camp, but now God was telling me that it was really true.  HIS LOVE IS EVERYWHERE!  Of course there is a lot in this world that IS NOT love, that IS NOT part of God’s original plan.

But His love is still there, bigger and stronger.  If only we could be aware of it.  If others have found His love in the depths of darkness, certainly I could find it in every circumstance of my life.  If His love can bring redemption from the worst of the worst, certainly He can do the same in my slightly messed up life!  When I began to look at the trials as potential miracles, my burdens began to turn to wonder.

              Three – The Eagles and the Wind

Eagle silhouette in Kachemac Bay where many birds can be seen

In the following weeks, I practiced feeling God’s heartbeat of love pulsing all around me and in me.  I imagined it flowing thought everything I looked at.  I imagined it touching everything I thought about.  Many times I would feel the wind of His presence, so full of love.

At the same time, I found myself searching the sky for eagles.  I know that there probably aren’t many eagles around here, but I was eager to see any bird of prey.  God speaks to me so often through nature, and right then I had an obsession with eagles.  It started when I wrote the article,  A Cure for the Negativity that is All Around , in which I told about a vision I had about 12 years ago.  I saw a nest full of baby eagles on the side of a rocky cliff.

God said, “You are eagles and you are to raise your children like eagles.”

Eagles play a huge part in the visions that Rick Joyner tells about in the Final Quest Series.  The eagles seemed to represent the prophets, flying high enough to see clearly what others cannot see.  They instruct, encourage, and warn the other believers.  They bring refreshing winds of healing when they flap their great wings.  They set believers free when they devour the snakes of shame. They carried many scars from the battles they had fought with courage. The Final Quest books have impacted me deeply.  I have read them many times and felt challenged and uplifted each time.  A small, timid voice inside my heart would say, “Perhaps I am meant to be an eagle.”  My mind would quickly dismiss the silly thought…until I remembered that vision.

I still didn’t understand how I could be an eagle in the spirit, but I wanted to find out.  So I began to search the skies for a sign.  Perhaps if I caught sight of the noble creatures (even a hawk would do!), they could teach me something.  As I drove through the country to the farm I frequent once a week, I would see large birds high the sky.  I would marvel at their freedom and wonder what they were seeing.

“How I wish I could fly up there like an eagle!  How I wish I could feel the wind as they do and see as they see!”  I thought to myself.

As I watched, I realized that they usually didn’t work hard or even flap their wings.  They simply allowed the wind to carry them.

                “The Wind of my Presence will lift you up so you can see like an eagle.  Being in my presence is the key to the vision you desire,” I heard the Spirit of God say to me.

In a split second He married my two obsessions, the wind and the eagle. I wasn’t crazy!  God was taking me on a journey that I didn’t understand, but it seemed as though He wanted me to be an eagle as much as I wanted to be one!

The scripture I received at the Women’s Encounter brought all of these encounters into focus for me.

Psalm 27:4-5 “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life (His presence – YES!  That is what I want more than anything!), to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” (That’s where my baby eagles and I live!  That is where He is positioning me!)

Four – The Sky and the Ocean

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One Evening in April I was attending Women’s Prayer at my church.  The worship that night was simply a play list on a cell phone plugged into the sound system, yet I felt the Presence of the Lord so deeply.  I felt His love pulsing through me!  I felt His wind!  I imagined stretching my wings.  The beautiful wind lifted me high above the earth, above my circumstances, above the doubt and fear and anger of this world.  I could see that all was love, all was victory, all was good.

Right at that moment a song came on that I didn’t know, but the vocalist was singing about the wind of God.

“I can feel your wind blow through me.  All of me cries out for all of you!”

The words perfectly captured what was going on in my spirit. (Later the leader told me that she hadn’t picked that song and didn’t know why it had come on…but I did!)  I was soaring on the inside and feeling incredible freedom and peace.  Then I encountered the clouds in the sky.  I became the rain, falling to the earth.  I became part of the great waterfall that Hannah Hurnard talked about in Hinds’ Feet on High Places.  I was one of those happy drops of water, throwing themselves down from the High Places with thrilling abandon to be broken on the rocks below.  We continued to flow to the lowest place, down to the Valley of Humiliation to bring life and love to suffering humanity.  The water persisted in its journey until it reached the ocean.  And there I was, water in the depths of the ocean.  I could lay my life down to bring His love in the lowest place.

The wind and the rain

The Sky and the Ocean

             “This is what I am offering you.  This is the necklace from your dream.” The Father whispered.

Then I remembered necklace and my dream (God Encounters ~ Part One)!  The beautiful silver necklace with light blue jewels each inlaid with smaller dark blue gems.

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The light blue was the wind.

The dark blue was the rain.

The light blue was the Sky.

The light blue was the Ocean.

The Sky was limitless freedom and potential and vision.

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The Ocean was His Love and Peace in darkness and suffering, humility and servant-hood.

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My Father was offering me the vast expanse of the Sky and the deepest depths of the Ocean.

How could I, an imperfect mortal be worthy of such a gift?  How could I even understand such a gift?  How could I ever accept it and live in its reality?  Then the answer came.

                “You can’t work for this.  You are my daughter.  This is your inheritance.  Just accept it.”

So in my spirit that night, I accepted the gift that I could barely comprehend.  My Father, the King, placed the necklace around my neck and clasped it in the back.  It felt light.  This was no burden!  This was no heavy yoke!  This was the Sky and the Ocean…and it was mine.

 

 

 

 

Encounters with God ~ Part One: Dream Interpretation Please!

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I had an interesting dream in December, one full of symbols and a meaning I knew I needed to understand.  God was trying to talk to me, but what was He saying?

I was climbing up one of those attic staircases, the rickety kind that fold up into the ceiling when you are not using it.  I climbed up into the attic of my church.  It looked like a storage room for a museum, containing priceless treasures from all over the world.

                One of my pastors met me at the top of the stairs.  She had a smile on her face as she offered me a beautiful silver necklace.  It looked like it had belonged to royalty.  It had many large, silver bangles hanging from it, each one inlaid with a light blue rectangle with a dark blue circle in the center.  I hardly noticed the necklace, so it is a wonder that I can remember what it looked like at all. 

                I politely told my pastor, “No thank you.”  I really didn’t even consider accepting such a gift.  I was never one to wear large pieces of jewelry, and I just didn’t think it would suite me.  Plus I had my eye on something I thought was much more important and exciting.  Down the hall was an Egyptian Mummy.  As I child I had been fascinated with mummies, getting every book that the library had about the topic and pouring over the pages again and again.  I used to dream of becoming an archeologist and traveling to far-away places and uncovering untold treasures.

This mummy was encased in a very plain, clay sarcophagus.  It was apparent that I had already spent many painstaking hours chipping away at the clay to reveal the mummy underneath. I was excited about the significant discovery I was going to make, uncovering pieces of history that had not yet been revealed.  So far I had only uncovered the feet and the lower portion of the legs, dark and shriveled with age.  I was eager to return to my work.

Unfortunately I had left the sarcophagus in the walkway of the attic, and other people were coming and going.  I knew I had made a horrible mistake as some people brushed up against the mummy’s legs and feet.  I watched in horror as the fragile legs simply disintegrated into dust and blew away.  I felt devastated.

I pondered this dream for the next few days and here is what I think it means.  The mummy symbolizes human significance, the approval of men, the history books written here on earth.  Ever since childhood I have been intrigued by the work of men that can endure long enough for future generations to marvel and wonder.  Even now it is a deep need of mine to live a life that makes an impact and leaves a mark on the people of this earth.  However, if my focus is on achieving significance that is recognized by men, it will be like working carefully and diligently to reveal a mummy.  Anything can destroy that mummy.  It will not endure.

I immediately thought of my work to become a writer.  I long to be a writer.  I tell myself that my writing is mostly for myself, to document all the amazing things that God has done in my life.  Every time I type out a story, God’s goodness becomes more real to me.  Every time I read over something I had written years ago, I am overcome with the Goodness of God that I had forgotten but now remember again because I took the time to write it down!  I tell myself and others that my writing is mostly for my children, to give them a written history of what God has done in our family.  These things that I tell myself and others are very true.

Yet, my Big Dream (my Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is that my writing will go all over the world, impacting lives.  I want to be like the writers whose words have become a part of me and who have shaped the person that I am.  Many of them have died, yet their words live on, still rippling through time, shaping the generations.

I also want to be a writer who makes money from my writing.  It seems to me that the only way a writer can really make money and influence lots of people is to become known by the masses, to write a best seller, to have her name mentioned in households everywhere, or to have a blog article go viral.  I can’t imagine how this would happen to me, but it is still a dream.  I feel like every time I sit down and write something, however small and insignificant it may seem, I am that much closer to achieving that goal.  But is my work like chipping away at a mummy?

I think God is trying to keep me on track.  When I connect my dreams with the image of that mummy, I shudder with a cold chill.  That is not what I want!  I do not want to spend my life working for something cold and lifeless that most certainly will be blown away by any small wind of criticism, changing times, or fickle public opinion.  If this is my focus, I will most certainly fail.  I can only write something of significance if it comes from my relationship with God and is written to please Him.

Next my thoughts turn back to the necklace that I had so flippantly passed by.  That must be the treasure that God has for me, the goal of my life.  What exactly is that necklace supposed to represent?  Silver with light blue and deep blue.  A necklace fit for a queen.

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I am certain that the necklace represents the presence of God.  How could I pass up such a beautiful gift in favor of a mummy?  I have begun to evaluate my days with this test – am I going after the necklace or the mummy today?

Many times I think that His presence is my goal, but I get so distracted by getting things done.  Many times I think that all I need is His approval but find myself straining to gain the approval of others.  Many times I feel so discouraged by how little progress I make on anything measurable during the course of my day.  But it is the immeasurable things that really matter in this life.  I am determined not to miss those things!  This takes exercising my faith and spiritual eyes, because those things are invisible and so easy to pass by.  But in the light of eternity, they will grace me with the identity that will last forever…the Bride of the King.

In the months following this dream, I have had several encounters with God.  He began to slowly and gently reveal more about His presence and the treasure of this necklace…more about that in my coming articles; Encounters with God Part 2 and 3.

 

 

 

Fear Won’t Steal My Voice

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As a young child, I believed several lies about myself.  I felt that I was vastly inferior in certain areas such as physical appearance, social graces, coordination, athletic ability, and the ability to speak with people I didn’t know very well.  I was sure that I would be rejected, so the fear of rejection was my constant companion.  I didn’t know about “the fear of rejection”, this was just my reality.  It was just the way the world worked, and I lived and made decisions to protect myself from rejection.

In Elementary school I always got an “A ”in conduct, because I was well behaved and talked very little.  I didn’t want to do anything that would draw attention to myself. I wanted to hide or at least blend in to avoid any negative reactions.  In new situations with new people, I felt almost paralyzed by the fear.  Faced with a social situation that required small talk, my mind became absolutely blank.  I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

Fear would steal my voice.

This continued until junior high when something amazing happened.  God began to alter my path.  My first boyfriend, Jesse, invited me to his church (Word Fellowship which is now Life Center) for a youth event.  I agreed to go simply because I liked Jesse so much.  I found myself in the church gym, surrounded by the overpowering smell of fresh onions, helping to assemble hundreds of subs for the youth fundraiser.  [Here is a little fun fact: who do you think rode into the gym on a skateboard and was introduced to me as Jesse’s best friend?  None other than Chris Brandenburg!  Of course I was too shy to really talk to him at that point.]

This youth fundraiser was also an overnight event complete with food and fun games.  Jesse was very outgoing and knew everyone at the church.  He also loved the game of bombardment, which is similar to dodge ball.  The thought of participating in anything that would expose my physical awkwardness was terrifying to me.  I was hoping that Jesse would sacrifice his love for the game to stay with me.  But he didn’t.  He left me in the youth room while he returned to the gym.

I found a chair to sit in and felt completely alone.  The fear of rejection had me so paralyzed that I didn’t move from that spot for what seemed like hours.  Other students came and went, some sitting close to me to carry on a conversation.  But not a single person spoke to me.  I didn’t move or even look at them.  I tried to become invisible and wished I had never come.

Yet when Jesse invited me to come to a Wednesday night youth service, I found myself saying, “I’ll be there.”  I showed up that Wednesday night, but I still felt very uncomfortable.  A ray of sunshine by the name of Patty Leach (wife of the youth pastor) shone on me.  She said with a big smile on her lovely face, “So you are Anne?  You are a lot prettier than Jesse’s last guest.” [Disclaimer: Jesse’s last guest was a boy so this was not really an insult to say that he wasn’t pretty.]

Just the fact that someone had spoken to me and called me pretty was very encouraging!  I continued to come for a few months and felt confused by this charismatic church culture.  It was all new and strange.

One wintery Wednesday night changed everything for me – forever!  There was a guest speaker who I had never seen before.  At the end of his sermon, he asked us to come up to the front if we wanted prayer.  I found myself standing in the front with a whole crowd of other teenagers.  I don’t know how I got there, as usually fear would have me rooted to my seat.  He began to pray for the students and they seemed really impacted. A few of them started to cry.

“I wonder if he will know that I don’t believe in this stuff.”  I thought to myself.

Sure enough, he knew.  The youth pastor, John Leach, appeared seemingly out of nowhere and asked if I wanted to be saved.  The truth was, I didn’t know what “saved” meant and had never heard the “sinner’s prayer.”  But I said yes, and repeated the prayer after John.  I hadn’t been looking for God.  I didn’t believe in Him or felt that I needed Him.  Yet He burst into my heart anyway.  I felt Him and I felt His amazing love for me.  The scales fell off of my eyes and the world seemed entirely new to me.

This was the beginning of my freedom from fear!  It didn’t happen overnight.  I came each Wednesday night to youth group which was called Heirborne, but I still hadn’t made many friends.  It seemed that everyone else was a part of the group but me.  I was a silent observer most of the time.  One night I went home feeling the sting of rejection.  No one had been mean to me, but I felt like such an outsider.

“I can’t continue to do this to myself, this is torture.” I reasoned.  I would just have to tell Jesse that this church thing wasn’t really for me.  I was very serious about never returning to Heirborne again.

I never did have that conversation with Jesse. I was probably just too shy.  I found myself at youth group each Wednesday and gradually I made friends.  Slowly I learned that small talk wasn’t brain surgery.  Slowly I began to feel like I belonged there.

Sometime during my high school years, John’s brother Bryan took over as youth pastor.  He had a crazy idea; the youth should help to lead Heirborne.  He chose a group of us and called us the SALT team (Student Action Leadership Team).  Just the fact that Bryan had chosen me sent me an important message.  I had value.  I didn’t have to be like anyone else.  I could be myself, and I could be an important member of the team.  Bryan and his wife Marcey helped me to realize my worth.

We would meet once a week to pray and plan the next youth meeting.  We would take turns being responsible for different parts of the service – offering, announcements, and the teaching.  We would brainstorm wild ideas for skits or fun games that would illustrate the main point of the teaching.  I found myself up front speaking, teaching, or even dressed in crazy costumes doing ridiculous skits.  Talk about being out of my comfort zone!

Just the fact that I was able to get up in front of a group of people and talk was MIRACULOUS!

Once I was chosen to portray a “party girl” in a skit.  It was supposed to be a game show that had many different types of people answering the questions.  I would have never chosen this character for myself, being just the opposite of a “party girl.”  Yet I was determined to do the best job that I could.  I wore the closest thing to a mini skirt that I owned (which really was practically down to my knees).  A friend teased my hair until it was perfect 80s “big hair”.  I got out there with all the other crazy characters and acted as loud and obnoxious as I could, yelling out about wanting a case of “Red Bull.”

I felt absolutely ridiculous, yet there was no fear!  I wasn’t worried about being rejected by the other teens at youth that night.  I was just having fun and hoping that I could help the other teens have fun, feel a part of the group, and learn about God.  I stopped thinking about myself and began to want to be a blessing to others.  Fear became less and less a part of my life as I graduated High School and did missions with Youth With A Mission.  Preaching in front of others and meeting new people from all over the world became exhilarating.

I came back from YWAM and married that kid on the skateboard, Chris Brandenburg.  After a year of working and being youth leaders, we moved to Colorado Springs. We became part of a small church, but after 7 years I experienced the biggest rejection of my life.

I had always dealt with the FEAR of rejection but now what I had dreaded had come upon me.  The church (which was comprised of our leaders, closest friends, and spiritual family – almost our ENTIRE support network there in Colorado), kicked us out.  The main leader, Mary, told Chris that we could no longer be part of the church because of MY iniquities.  She said that I was interfering with their prayers.  She said I was holding Chris back from his destiny and that I was not the woman that God had wanted him to marry.  She said that I would one day leave him.  Once that happened, Chris could return to the church. Imagine hearing these words from someone you honored and respected as your leader.  I honored and respected Mary, but I also feared her. Mary had spoken harsh words to me before.  I had tried my best to follow God, yet she was always able to find something about me to criticize.  I remember thinking, “I will never be free until Mary dies.”  Isn’t that horrible?

Thankfully Mary didn’t have to die for me to be free from fear.  She just had to reject me, and God began to set me free!

I sought God like never before and do you know what I realized?

All of His words to me were good!

He loved me, more that I could take in or comprehend!

He delighted in me and actually liked me!

He gave me so much joy, more than I had ever had before!

He began to show me that the church that had rejected me did not have His heart.  Rather, they were working for the Accuser of the Brethren.  I am sure that the enemy of my soul, that dirty rotten liar of an accuser had a plan that he thought was fool proof.  He would link my heart and my identity to this little church and then turn them against me.  I would finally suffer the dreaded REJECTION and receive a mortal wound that would fester until the bitterness had consumed me.

BUT GOD…

GOD came down and saved me and filled me with His acceptance.  He loved me no matter what I had done right or wrong.  He loved me whether I had accomplished anything important or not.  Because of Him, I had a value that nothing could ever take away.

I had come face to face with my greatest fear.

I had met REJECTION and stared into its ugly, contorted face and you know what…it wasn’t so bad.

In fact, I actually felt honored that a church that had fallen so far from the Amazing Grace of God had rejected me. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the type of person that they would have accepted – one that feared men more than God.  It was a compliment that The Accuser had felt that I was enough of a threat to come after me like that.

Now I look back at that rejection and feel that it was one of the biggest blessings in my life!  I learned so much about God and about myself, and I was set free from that cult.  Of course I had a lot of healing to do, a lot of wrong teachings to unlearn.

Again, Life Center played a big role in my freedom from fear.  A year after that big rejection, Life Center offered Chris a job and helped to move us back to PA.  The atmosphere of love and acceptance at that wonderful church was just what we needed to heal.

I would love to say that now I never feel fear, that I boldly go speaking the Words of God wherever I go.  That is not the case.  Fear, specifically fear of rejection, is still my biggest hurdle to overcome before doing anything out of my normal routine.  Something as simple as making a phone call, walking across the street to talk to a neighbor, initiating a conversation with a stranger, or speaking in front of a group can bring on a flurry of anxious thoughts.  I would rather stay in my safe zone and never have to risk rejection again.  But now, it is usually very easy to silence those thoughts.  I simply stop thinking about myself and ask God to make me a blessing to whoever I am going to encounter.

Speaking at the Propel meeting was just an example of this.  I have enjoyed attending the monthly Propel meetings over the last year.  I have sat in the audience and looked up on stage at the many beautiful women and have been touched by their amazing stories.  Yet, I would think to myself, “I would never want to sit up there with them where everyone could see me and realize that I am not as pretty as the others.”

When Patty called me last week to ask if I would share at the February meeting, immediately that fearful thought flashed through my mind.  I heard myself saying, “Yes, I can be there,” because there was a much more dominating thought.  That thought was, “I know that God has put something inside of me that could be a blessing to the other women…

 and I don’t want fear to steal my voice again!”

Fear tried to silence my voice.  But in God I have found my voice.  Many times when I talk to a group or one on one – I can feel God speaking through me.  I feel lies being broken.  I feel atmospheres shifting.  I feel hope rising.  I feel peace coming down and settling.  When I am in tune with Christ, THERE IS POWER in my voice!  Yet many times I must chose to overcome fear before I am able to open my mouth.

Fear feels to me like Paul’s thorn in the flesh.  In 2 Cor 12:8-10 he says, “Three times I pleaded with the LORD to take it away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

There is also power in my written words.  Power to crack open strongholds.  Power to impart wisdom.  Power to lead others to God.  I have loved exploring the power of my written words with this blog.  There is a certain amount of fear involved with telling your inner most thoughts to the world.  But I am not trying to make myself look perfect to avoid rejection.  In fact, most of my articles are about my weaknesses, my insecurities, my mistakes, and my failures. That is where I find His Grace.  That is where my real power lies – in my imperfection.  For when I am weak…

Then God shows Himself Strong!

Why Did I Think We Needed a Puppy?

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I have always been anti-dog.  My house is already full of loud, messy, needy creatures.  What do I need a dog for?

“It would be so good for the children,” my husband would argue the pro-dog position.

“They are so cute!  And it would be fun,” the children would chime in.

“Don’t worry, we will get one…someday…when we have a lot of land and the dog can be an outside dog,” I would always answer.

I had no intention of sharing my home with a stinky, hairy animal that may or may not destroy the furniture and pee on the rug.  God, however, had different ideas.

I drive to a farm once a week to purchase raw milk and pastured eggs.  A few years ago, beagles began showing up on the farm until there were three beagles in three separate pens.  Soon there was a litter of the cutest little balls of fur in one of the pens.  The children would “ooohhhh” and “ahhhhh” over them and try to pet them through the chain link fence.  The puppies would trample over each other to get to the children, wild with excitement.

The children would come home with tales of the adorable puppies.

“Just call and find out how much they are,” Chris urged me.

“We don’t need a puppy right now.  I don’t WANT a puppy right now,” was my reply.

“Just call,” he said.

After I called and found out that each puppy would require a sum of $450, the talk of getting a puppy ceased.  The puppies grew up and were all adopted.  Then six months later another batch of puppies would appear wobbling out of their little dog house and into the penned-in yard.  I let the children have fun talking to them and petting them, but my heart was unmoved.  I never thought that beagles were that cute anyway.

This September, there was a new litter of seven puppies.  The farmer invited me and my children to peek into the dog house.  We saw the tiniest black bundles snuggled up to their mother. They seemed different somehow.  They were black and white.  Had any of the other beagle puppies been black and white?  I couldn’t exactly remember.

Soon they grew enough to venture into their yard.  I felt strangely drawn to these tiny creatures.  They were so adorable.  Areli took a pictures of them with her phone.  Cute, right?

The farmer let the children hold one, and they were in love.

“So how many of them are you going to take home?” the farmer asked.

I just laughed!

The next week there was a new sign at the farm that read, “Border Collie Beagle Puppies $100.”  I started thinking, “Hey, we could afford $100!  If all the children would pitch in, they could cover all the costs and help to take care of a puppy.”

Yet my thoughts scared me!  What was I thinking, even considering this?  We didn’t need a puppy!

I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind.  The children would be overjoyed to have a puppy, and I would love to fulfill their heart’s desire.  I told Chris my thoughts and he said, “If YOU want to get a puppy that is all the confirmation I need!  Call them and ask if we can pick one out.  You better hurry before they sell them all!”

I called the owner, who was the wife of the farmer’s brother.  She told me the funny story about these $100 puppies.  She and the farmer’s brother were planning their wedding and decided not to breed the beagles this season since the puppies would arrive right around the wedding date, early September.  Well nature, the dogs, or God himself had different plans.  When the female beagle was in heat, the Border Collie who lives on the farm chewed into her cage.

I laughed about the unplanned pregnancy that had produced such adorable pups.  I set up a time to bring the entire family to the farm that Friday evening.

On Friday morning I was feeling very nervous about this rather impulsive, impractical, and life changing decision…to go PICK OUT A PUPPY!  What was I thinking?!  I asked God to give me a scripture to confirm that this was a good decision for our family.

He gave me Psalm 34.  I read the beloved verses such as:

I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him and be radiant so your faces shall never be ashamed.

The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Peace began to flood my soul and I thought, “A puppy must be a good thing that God wants to give to us.”

Later that day, all 11 of us crowded into a room in the barn.  The floor was wet since all the puppies had just been given a bath. They were so little and cute and active!  They would run around wagging their tails rapidly; licking, chewing, and jumping the entire time.  I had prayed that the Holy Spirit would highlight the perfect puppy for our family, yet I couldn’t even tell them apart!  I finally settled on one puppy that seemed to like Ashlyn. I always had thought that a dog would be good for Ashlyn since she loves animals. Cooper and Cadin picked another puppy with distinctive brown eye brows who was identified by the owner as the most active puppy of the bunch.  Areli and Cole had bonded with a shy little girl who had been so scared by the bath, she spent the first half of the visit in her owner’s arms.  Once she was let down to the floor, Cole scooped her up and she fell asleep. photo-10Areli took a turn cradling the sleeping pup.  Cole and Areli were in love.

After much discussion and debate, we finally settled on the sleeping pup.  A sweet and docile dog would be a good complement to our overactive boys.  She was the only puppy that the owner had already named because she was the favorite.  Her name was “Happy” due to her constantly wagging tail.

It was a good thing we went to the farm that night because the very next day, all six of Happy’s brothers and sisters were adopted!  We decided to keep her name “Happy” because we couldn’t all agree on a name.

Chris wanted to name her “Dog.”

Cadin wanted, “Gigi.”

Cooper thought something like, “Skullcrusher” would be more appropriate.

Areli and I preferred a sweet name like, “Ellie”.

Cole suggested, “Gonorrhea,” for the entertaining shock value.

Mercifully, the named had already been chosen!!  Now we just had to wait until Oct 8th when we could take Happy home.

After the exciting trip to the farm, I sat down to read through Psalm 34 again.  When I got to verse 8, it was like a revelation from God.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good;

HAPPY are those who take refuge in him.”

God knew that Happy was the puppy for us.  I felt that He knew it all along, and that He had planned all of us to bless us.

When October 8th came, we were all very excited!  The children held a rather apprehensive Happy on the van ride home.  She had already gotten bigger!photo-4  She seemed uncertain about her new home and finally found her happy place, snuggled in Ashlyn’s lap.

Neither Chris nor I had ever had a dog.  We knew very little about being dog owners.  I had gotten all kinds of books and DVDs from the library which the children and I had been studying.  I was preparing myself for a lot of work initially.  Areli said she would take Happy out during the night.  Cole said he would train her.  The other boys said they would take her out for walks and play time.

I had a vision in my head inspired by the many books and movies I had seen about dogs.  The children and the dog would be best friends, almost inseparable.  She would look up at them with adoration in her eyes, longing to please.  She would join them on their adventures in the woods.  They would become responsible pet owners and grow in maturity.

Three days after we brought her home we noticed something in her fur.  Fleas!!!  Just two of them, but I had never had fleas in my house before.  The internet said that one flea could turn into hundreds, maybe thousands in just a week.  My skin started to crawl and I was officially freaking out.  How do I naturally deal with fleas?  We gave her bathes in flea shampoo and vacuumed every day.

After a few weeks, we were all worn out and it seemed as though Happy hadn’t learned anything.  She hadn’t learned to sleep through the night and Areli was walking through her day like a zombie.  Cole hadn’t trained her to do anything.  Someone was assigned to watch her at every moment and take her outside every half an hour.  Still, dog pee and poop on the carpet was the new normal.

I thanked God that our carpet was so old that it really should be replaced anyway, but the smell and the extra cleaning was frustrating.  Just to make it interesting, Happy barfed and had diarrhea a few times as well.

I began to realize that I really knew nothing about dogs.  Is this all normal?  Is she ok, or is she sick?  What would I do if she got sick?  I know all about taking care of children and babies.  I know exactly how to treat all of the childhood maladies, but a dog I had no clue about.  How could we afford vet bills?  What vaccines does she need and which ones are unnecessary?  Should we get her spayed and how?

I reminded myself that Happy was a BLESSING from God and He would work all this out.

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I would remind myself over and over again.  My happiness was not in the circumstances but in His unchanging love and goodness.

More weeks passed and Happy continued to chew on EVERYTHING!  We had to keep the floor cleaner than if we had a baby crawling around.  When she got something that could be dangerous, it became a game of, “who can catch the puppy and pry this thing out of her mouth.”

The most distressing reality to me was the fact that she like to chew on PEOPLE!  My people!  My little defenseless people!  Annalise was afraid of Happy because Happy could knock her down.  I would have to hold Annalise or put her in her highchair when Happy was around, and this was incredibly inconvenient.  Courage wasn’t much better, but at least he could run away and climb up on the furniture to escape her reach.

Courage took to hitting and kicking the puppy.  I thought he was just being naughty, until I realized that he was really angry at this new “baby” for hurting him and scaring him.  The truth was, I was angry too and couldn’t blame Courage for his emotions.  I tried to teach him how to play with her nicely, but it ended up more like refereeing a mixed martial arts fight.  Happy just thought they were her brother and sister and wanted to play.

Ashlyn, who loved to play with Happy, would mess with the puppy endlessly.  This resulted in many bites and scratches.  The saddest moments for me would be when one of the middle boys would be playing with the puppy.  Happy would get over excited and bite hard.  The boys would end up bleeding and crying.  My idyllic vision of pet ownership was crushed.

I became very upset over the entire situation.  My day was much more difficult and messy and sad and frustrating.  Why did I think we needed a puppy?  I began to wish that I never had this stupid idea!

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I tried to remind myself.

dsc_0093The children began to fight with me about taking Happy outside and cleaning up after her.  When I talked to Chris about all of these things at supper time, his response was very simple.

“This is just a dog.  All of you promised to help with her.  If you don’t help, or if you give Mama a hard time about it, I will get rid of the dog.  I have no problem posting on Facebook, ‘Free Puppy.’”

Chris was very serious.  I actually wanted to take him up on his offer!  What a load would be lifted!  Yet, I felt that God had brought us this specific puppy, and it wouldn’t be right to give her up.  I felt that eventually she would be a great blessing to our family, although in the moment I couldn’t quite imagine how.

Dealing with the inconveniences of a new puppy is a rather small trial.  Yet God was using this to teach me lessons I needed to navigate through the real trial in my life; the heartrending trial that is just too deep and personal to write about yet.  I was dealing with a situation that I had always hoped and earnestly prayed that I would NEVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH.  And now that I was in the middle of it, I just wanted to retreat.  To be done, to give up, to admit defeat.

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I remind myself every time I look at our puppy. Just like this puppy, I know that God will use this horrible situation for my good and bring a blessing out of it.   I can’t imagine what the blessing will be, but I am trying to believe that there is ALWAYS a blessing to everything that God allows to enter our lives.

J.R. Miller expressed it perfectly when he wrote:

“Every difficult task that comes across your path – every one that you would rather not do, that will take the most effort, cause the most pain, and be the greatest struggle – brings a blessing with it.  And refusing to do it regardless of the personal cost is to miss the blessing…

“Every battle field you encounter, where you are required to draw your sword and fight the enemy, has the possibility of victory that will prove to be a rich blessing to your life.  And every heavy burden you are called upon to lift hides within itself a miraculous secret of strength.”

Now the puppy has become less of a trial.  The children had a real attitude adjustment and began helping more willingly.  They began to have fun playing outside with her and taking her to the park.  She began to sleep through the night!  She started to calm down with the chewing and biting.  She actually became very gentle with Annalise and better with the other children as well.  She started to obey some commands!

We take pleasure in petting her silky fur and scratching her belly as her tail thumps on the floor.  We love to snuggle with her on the sofa when she curls up to take a nap.

photo-12 She has stopped using our house as a toilet (most of the time) and her schedule has become more predictable.  The flea infestation that I had worried about never manifested.  Whenever I look at her I can’t help but think that she is the prettiest puppy in the entire world, and I am glad that she is ours!

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Happy is a constant reminder that Happy are those to take refuge in Him and every trial holds the promise of a blessing whether we can see it or not.

America, this is God’s Mercy!

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I have never prayed so much for a presidential election.

I have never prayed so much for my country.

I have never sought God more for His presence and His will.

On the morning of Nov. 3rd I was thinking about the article I had posted the night before, Heartbroken and Troubled by the Election? Be Encouraged!

“God, do I have your heart?  Have I heard you correctly?”  I found myself asking.  I turned to the Bible and asked Him to give me a scripture.  I was still wearing my pajamas and doing my morning exercises.  The little ones were playing around me, and I should have been getting on with my day, but I just had to hear His voice.

I opened the Bible to Hosea 11 and began to read.

When Israel [I felt like God was putting the USA into this place] was a child, I loved him,

And out of Egypt I called my son.

The more I called them, the more they went from me;

They kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.

It was the hand of God that formed our nation.  Yet our nation has largely turned away from our Biblical foundation.  Our country sacrifices the blood of 3,000 children a day to the idols of fear, selfishness, wealth, and convenience.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim [America] to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.

I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love.  I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks.  I bent down to them and fed them.

God had abundantly blessed our country and given us freedom and prosperity, but systematically over the years the government has turned from Him.  Most of us are complacent in seeking him.

They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me.

Swords will flash in their cities, will destroy the bars of their gates and put an end to their plans.

I can see how America deserves judgement from God.  My heart is heavy.

My people are bent on turning away from me.  To the Most High they call, but He does not raise them up at all.

At this point my heart is beating fast.  I am panicking and full of grief.  “No, God!” My heart is whispering, “We cannot endure this.” I continue to read.

How can I give you up Ephriam [America]?  How can I hand you over, Israel [USA]?  How can I make you like Admah?  How can I treat you like Zeboiim [cities that were destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah but no longer remembered]?

My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.

I WILL NOT execute my fierce anger; I WILL NOT again destroy Ephraim [America]; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I WILL NOT COME IN WRATH.

I did not know this chapter of the Bible by heart, so when I came to these verses telling of God’s mercy; relief and deep, deep gratitude flooded my soul.  I found myself on my face on the living room carpet, weeping uncontrollably.

His word is MERCY!

We deserve judgment, but He has said MERCY!

All I could do was worship Him with tears as my little ones continued to play, unaware of the collision of heaven and earth that had just occurred inside of me.

Then I continued to read Hosea 11:10-11.

They shall go after the Lord, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west.

They shall come [with eager haste] trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD.

This election has served an important purpose; to expose the problems in our nation and awaken the church.  This is going to continue!

God is roaring like a lion!!!

Do you hear him?  Will you come to Him like never before to seek Him for the healing of our land?  He wants to provide every American with peaceful dwelling places, secure homes, and undisturbed places of rest (Is 32:18), but it will take quite a battle to get there.

After I read these verses, I was sure that whoever was elected would be God’s mercy to us…and I was about 98% sure that it would be Trump.  Nov. 3rd was my day to spend 3 hours in the Furnace (prayer room) at my church.  This was such a pleasure for me since I love to intercede but don’t have many chances to leave the distractions of my busy household.

Those of us in the Furnace felt incredible faith to plead the blood of Jesus over our land, which speaks a better word than judgement and the Accuser.  I prayed out Is 40: 22-24 which talks about God’s breath as a whirlwind, blowing away evil rulers like chaff.  I prayed that every evil in our government and in our culture would be blown away by that whirlwind and that the Kingdom of God would replace it.

When I returned home I found confirmation to all of these things on Facebook.  The importance of Hosea 11:11 was highlighted to me when both Rick Joyner and Lance Wallnau announced that they are having important meetings on 11/11/16 and Veronica West saw that same day as a day of justice.  Another post from Veronika West went like this;

“DAUGHTER WHY DO MY PEOPLE LISTEN AND PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE THAT CRY OUT JUDGEMENT, JUDGEMENT, JUDGEMENT IS COMING, FOR SURELY I TELL YOU MY HEART OF LOVE AND COMPASSION IS TURNED TOWARDS THIS NATION, FOR I HAVE HEARD THEIR CRIES FOR MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, AND NOW MY MERCY IS MAKING A WAY WHERE THERE SEEMED NO WAY”, says God.

As I was reading these words I had a video playing on another tab.  It was a service in which Dutch Sheets and Chuck Pierce were prophesying over America.  It had just been recorded in Las Vegas a few days earlier.

MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY!” they kept saying over and over.

I continued to read the post from Veronika West;

“THIS IS THE 11th HOUR, FEAR NOT, FOR HIS MERCY IS MAKING A WAY, AND HIS GRACE HAS NOT GIVEN YOU WHAT YOUR SINS HAVE DESERVED, GREATER ARE THOSE THAT ARE WITH YOU, THAN THOSE THAT ARE AGAINST YOU!…

AMERICA, I DECLARE THIS IS THE 11TH HOUR, THE HOUR OF DIVINE INTERVENTION AND GREAT REVERSAL!!!

WATCH! HERE COMES THE WHIRLWIND OF REDEMPTION AND RESTORATION, LOOK UP! THE SPIRIT OF MIGHT AND POWER IS RISING UP IN THE LAND, THE GRACE AND MERCY OF GOD IS OVERRULING, OVERTURNING AND UNRAVELING IN THIS 11TH HOUR.

Then I heard the spirit say, “BELOVED HAVE I NOT SAID, I AM DOING A NEW THING? OH YOU OF LITTLE FAITH! REPENT OF YOUR DOUBLE MINDEDNESS, AND YOUR COMPLAINING, AND RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE. LOOK! HERE COMES MY DIVINE INTERVENTION AND GREAT REVERSAL, FOR MY MERCY IS MOVING AND MAKING A WAY WHERE THERE SEEMED NO WAY, GET READY FOR MY WHIRLWIND OF REDEMPTION AND RESTORATION IS COMING QUICKLY AND SUDDENLY, I HAVE HEARD THE CRIES OF MY PEOPLE AND IN MY GREAT COMPASSION AND UNFAILING LOVE I HAVE NOT GIVEN YOU WHAT YOUR SINS HAVE DESERVED, BUT MY HEART AND MY HAND HAS BEEN MOVED TO SHOW YOU GRACE AND UNMERITED FAVOUR IN THIS 11TH HOUR…”

Whether you like him or not, Donald Trump is part of God’s plan for mercy.  Trump will not do everything right, but he is God’s way of resetting the clock to give the church in America more time.  More time to do what Jesus asked us to do, make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19) which means OUR NATION!  It is time that we stop listening to the media, to people, and to the Accuser.  It is time that we start listening to what the Spirit of God is saying about Donald Trump and the USA!

He is saying Mercy!

Heartbroken and Troubled by the Election? Be Encouraged!

 

dsc_0184All I have to do is catch a glimpse of a TV in a waiting room, see a sign in a front yard, talk to a friend, glance at Facebook, click on an article and read it…

And my heart is breaking again…

For my children

For my country

For my church

My spirit cries out to God!  I can hardly articulate my troubled thoughts.  My country seems irreversibly divided.  A great evil has a place of authority and influence in every sphere of culture.  Christians are divided against one another, and many feel no responsibility to affect change in the government. They are content to wait for heaven and don’t seem overly concerned that our nation is going to hell.

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“What about the children?” my heart screams at them!  “What about your own children that will inherit this mess!  What about the children that are being murdered by the thousands every day!”

When I speak out for truth, it seems I invite arguments and attacks.  I want to make a difference.  I want to see God’s healing and righteousness in my country.  But what can I do?

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I turn to God!  I seek His face!  He leads me to read Isaiah 40-42.

What words of truth!

What words of life!

They were true thousands of years ago.

They are still true today.

They will continue to be true forever.

Read His words and let your heart take courage.

While the people rage and conspire and fight…

God is in control!

Is. 40:7-8 …surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

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Is. 40:12-13 Who has else has held the oceans in his hands and measured off the heaven with his ruler?  Who else knows the weight of all the earth and weighs the mountains and the hills.  Who can advise the Spirit of the Lord or be his teacher or give him counsel? 

Is 40:15 …for all the peoples of the world are nothing in comparison with him – they are but a drop in the bucket, dust on the scales.

Is 40:22-24 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in;

Who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

[Men and women fight for power but all God needs to do is blow on them, and the total of their work, time, effort, money, and influence means nothing…and they are gone.  I was reminded of Ecc 3:14 “All that God does will endure.”  All other things will pass away.  I want to join God in whatever He is doing. That is my only chance for lasting significance.]

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Is 40:28 …He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding in unsearchable.

[Aren’t you weary of all this election talk?  Aren’t you weary of the news?  Maybe you are even weary of praying and trying to make a difference.]

Is 40:29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.  Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;

But those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,

They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

[Here is our answer.  Wait on the Lord!  Rise above the circumstances and see things the way He does!]

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Is 41:2 Who has roused a victor from the east [Cyrus], summoned him to his service?

He delivers up nations to him, and tramples kings underfoot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow.

[Isaiah prophesied about Cyrus by name over 100 years before Cyrus was born.  Cyrus was not a Jew, yet God choose him to accomplish His plans.  He used him to conquer the Medes and the land where the exiled Jews were living.  Cyrus brought prosperity back to the land and allowed the Jews to return home.  The “Cyrus Decree” instructed the kings following him to release the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and the temple and actually provided for the work financially.  Many have heard God saying that Donald Trump will be the 45th president and will be anointed like the Cyrus of Isaiah 45 to accomplish the work that God has him to do in this nation.  If this is true, Trump will succeed despite the opposition because God’s hand is on him. We as God’s people should stand with him and support him.]

Is 41:5-7 The lands beyond the sea [progressives and the Thunder Road Group] watch in fear and wait for the word of Cyrus’ new campaigns.  Remote lands [Democrats and even some Republicans] tremble and mobilize for war.  The craftsmen [Soros and others] encourage each other as they rush to make new idols to protect them.  The carver [Hillary campaign] hurries the goldsmith [liberal media], and the molder [Americans United for Change and others who paid people to incite violence at Trump rallies] helps at the anvil.

“Good,” they say.  “It is coming along fine.  Now we can solder on the arms.”

Carefully they join the parts together, and then fasten the thing in place so it won’t fall over!

[All their efforts, expertise, intelligence, and money can only erect a dead and powerless idol that needs to be fastened to the ground.  When God blows on it, nothing will be able to break its fall!  Their cause will not prevail!  Their work will not endure because God is not in it.  It is true that the idol is energized by the evil powers behind it.  We don’t make war against the people, but the spirits that the people have aligned themselves with (Eph 6:12).  But here is the hope!  The power of the dark spirits WILL be broken, the idol WILL fall, and the people WILL be set free to repent, change, and become champions of God!]

Is 41:8-11 But you, Israel [people of God and America], my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend…

You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off; do not fear for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Yes, all who are incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.

Is 41:14 Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect Israel! 

I will help you, says the Lord; you Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.  Now, I will make of you a threshing sledge, sharp, new and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff.

[Feeling insignificant and small like a worm?  God will use His people to do powerful things to change the landscape of this country!  Jesus has ALL authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18) and He has given that authority to us!  Everywhere we walk, God gives to us (Josh 1:3, Duet 11:24).  Those who do not love the Lord and don’t follow His ways do not have this authority and dominion.  They MAY NOT HAVE OUR COUNTRY!

The day after I read these verses, I read a post by Veronika West that made my Spirit leap within me!  Here is just an excerpt, a word from God to the USA:

“Listen my beloved America, watch for the sickle of Triumph will be used to reap the harvest of seeds you have sown in the past seasons…in this season I shall restore the fortunes of my people…for my beloved America shall not be cut off.”

Veronika saw the face of the future president on the blade of the sickle in the Lord’s hand.

“I prophecy your future president shall carry the mantle that shall make America great once again to the glory of God.”]

Is. 41:17 When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

Is 41:20 …so that all may see and know, all may consider and understand that the hand of the Lord has done this…

Is 42:1-4 Here is my servant [Jesus], whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;

A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;

He will faithfully bring forth justice.

He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth…

dsc_0450[How we long for the Compassion and Justice of the rule of King Jesus to be established here on the earth.  It will most certainly be established, and I have a feeling that Jesus will establish it through us, his church.]

 

Is 42:6-8…I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.  I am the LORD, that is my name, my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols.

[Those who are now fighting against God will either perish, or they will see the light and join Him!  We can take courage, be at peace, and join our Jesus in His work that will endure!]

It’s OK to be Yellow Goo (The Death of Signarama part 5)

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“What in the world do we do now?”

When one season ends before you expect it to, and nothing turned out the way you thought it would…transition is inevitable.

What will our future look like?

Who are we supposed to be?

What do we do now?

It can feel very sad and scary to face transition.  Yet, transition is just what is needed to form a butterfly from a caterpillar.  When all our plans fail, it could be that God’s plans are better, but we just can’t see that yet.

Signarama had died.  Chris was no longer a business owner, but rather a loader at UPS.  We weren’t able to buy that house we were hoping for or take that family vacation we had dreamed of or even budget how we would pay our bills from week to week.

Driving to Little Buffalo for a family fun day, we were trying to stay hopeful for the future.  I put in a CD of Lance Wallnau, and once again God orchestrated the perfect encouraging word for us.  Lance was talking about transition!  He pointed out the fact that when a caterpillar is in the cocoon, it dissolves into a mass of cells…essentially a glob of yellow goo.

It is not a caterpillar.

It is not a butterfly.

It may not even know what it will become, yet the imaginal cells are floating around trying to locate matching imaginal cells.  When one future antenna cell meets another future antenna cell they begin to form…

You guessed it…an antenna.  Slowly it becomes the very specific butterfly that God had imprinted into its cells from the beginning.  Yet in the yellow goo stage it looks nothing like that butterfly at all.

AND THAT IS OK!

It is ok to have absolutely no answers or clarity during the yellow goo stage.  Trust is more important than clarity.  We can trust that God knew what our butterfly would look like when he created us.

“I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.  So I will pray that you will trust God.” – Mother Teresa

It is a funny thing to be 40 and not yet know what you want to be when you grow up!  Then again…the possibilities are endless, and rather exciting to consider.

The next time I was snuggling with Annalise and having a quiet time, I asked God a question just for fun. I knew that He didn’t have to answer me; that clarity wasn’t important, but I was curious about what was on His mind.  So I asked it.

“Can you give me clarity on the next step?”

“The Lord had done great things for me, and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes oh Lord.

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.

He who goes out weeping, carrying seeds to sow,

 Will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with him.” Ps 126

What a wonderful picture!  Even though we had sown in tears and could see no harvest, WE WILL REAP WITH JOY!  When God speaks a word like that to your spirit, faith and the atmosphere of the future surrounds you in the present.  You feel certain that it will happen right away.

Tomorrow!

Or maybe next week!

Undoubtedly the breakthrough is right around the corner!

The very next day, God prepared me for the possibility that it may not happen right away. I was reading the book, The Cross and the Switchblade.  I had never read this famous book before, and I was loving it!  Right around 1960, David Wilkerson was a small town pastor who had made one little change in his life.  He decided to turn off the TV in the evenings and spend that time praying instead.  One night during his prayer time, he glanced at a Time magazine he had in his office.  On the front cover were the boys in New York City who were going on trial for murder.  They were part of a gang and had murdered another boy.

“Go to New York City and help those boys,” he heard God say.  He knew nothing about the city or about gangs, but he felt compelled to be obedient.

His church sent him on his mission.  As he drove to the city with a friend, they asked God for a verse.  The verse they received was the very verse that God had just given me!  How exciting!  Surely God was going to do amazing things to show these boys His love!

David ended up being able to be in the courtroom for the trial.  At the end of the day, afraid that this window of opportunity would close forever, he called out to the judge with a request to speak to the boys.  The judge had no patience for David’s outburst, yet David persisted.  He ended up being dragged out of the courtroom by security.  He left the city and went back to his friends and family in shame and disgrace.  What was worse, the media had snapped a picture of him being manhandled by the police and put it in the newspaper.  Now everyone could see his colossal mistake.  This did not appear to be “reaping with songs of joy.”

David could not stay away from New York City, however.  The young people living in the violence and drugs of the gangs were in his heart, and he had to minister to them.  He encountered these teens, but he had no way to connect with them, no way to establish rapport and cause them to trust him.  When one of the teens recognized him as the man in the paper who had a run in with the police, they suddenly let him in.  His ministry had finally begun!  The very thing that had plagued his mind as a stupid decision was the very thing that gave him a breakthrough!

He was able to bring many of them to Jesus; getting them off of drugs, discipling them, and training them to disciple others.  This ministry has grown into Teen Challenge which has helped thousands of drug addicts find Jesus and freedom!  That is certainly “reaping with songs of joy” an abundant harvest!  I am sure it has grown into much more than David had ever imagined, but it didn’t happen immediately.

“OK God, messaged received!  I can’t imagine the wonderful things you have prepared for us, and I might not even get a glimpse of them for a while.  I will trust you,” I prayed.

It was frustrating to stay in the confinement of our cocoon of transition.  It felt like a prison, and we knew we weren’t really free after years of striving after that freedom.  We weren’t financially free nor had Chris found his dream job.  I thought about Joseph when he was in prison.  The Bible says that Joseph had God’s presence, His unfailing love, and His favor while he was in prison.  Prison wasn’t evidence that God had left him or was displeased with him.

Our prison was serving an important role in our lives.  It was keeping us safe while God put our butterflies together.  Just imagine if that “caterpillar-turned-yellow-goo creature” was freed of its cocoon too early.  It would never become the stunning aerial masterpiece it was meant to be.  It would simply be a puddle of yellow slime, formless on the ground.

Some weeks later my mom brought over a bunch of clothes she had purchased for Ashlyn.  We sat together on the sofa and “ooooed” and “ahhhhed” over the pretty clothes.  After the fourth or fifth shirt embellished with butterflies, I blurted out, “This is the year of the butterfly!”

It was just a trivia comment, but my own words hit me in the chest like a prophecy.

Maybe this would be the year of MY butterfly!

For my birthday a friend gave me a very thoughtful gift, and on the packaging was a butterfly.  Another friend created a piece of art with names and favorite scriptures of many friends.  Next to my name was a butterfly.

So as I dream of the butterfly that will emerge this year or next year or in 10 years, I will embrace the yellow goo of today…

And trust that God knows exactly what He is doing.

 

Standing at the Crossroads (The Death of Signarama part 4)

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“Should we file bankruptcy?” I asked God on May 11, 2015.  What a hard question to even consider.

Quite a few years ago Chris and I had asked God this same question every few months.  We had been living in Colorado and had gotten off course.  We had followed our most trusted friends and leaders into what we thought was the cutting edge of God’s will.  Unfortunately, this led to $70,000 in credit card debt and other bills that we couldn’t pay.

Every time we asked God about bankruptcy, He would clearly answer, “No, I will restore your fortunes.”

It would have been much easier for us if we had just done it!  We could have stopped all the creditors from harassing us.  We could have saved Chris from working two jobs for 4 years!

But we believed what God had said, and we wanted to pay our debts.  We didn’t think Christians should file bankruptcy.  Chris worked hard, the children and I missed him, and God did miracles.  Eventually it was all paid off!

We were convinced that we didn’t want to get into any more personal debt.  When Chris wanted to fulfill his dream by buying a business, we thought that business debt was different.  Almost every business person we knew accepted the fact that debt was part of the equation.

Now we had a lot of business debt and no way to pay it.  So I asked the dreaded question again.

“Should we file bankruptcy?”

I got the impression of 1 Thes 5:18 in my mind so I looked it up.

“Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you.”

Never in my 25 years of being a Christian and asking God questions had I gotten this verse with its clear message, “THIS IS God’s will for you.”

                On May 12th someone from Signarama gave us the wonderful news.  There were buyers interested in our sign shop!!!  This was amazing!  We would be able to pay off our debts and avoid bankruptcy.  I was happy, but also sad because we wouldn’t walk away with any profit, nor would our investors.

Chris and the buyers finally settled on the purchase price and the closing date was set.  Just a week before the closing, one of the buyers just disappeared.  He didn’t communicate or return anyone’s phone calls, not even those of his business partner.  The entire deal dissolved, and those words echoed in my mind, “this is God’s will for you,” and “give thanks.”

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I tried to be thankful but I went into mourning instead.  I was weighted down by the thought of all of our creditors suffering a loss because of us.  I wanted to pay them back every penny.  It felt like such a waste; the sign shop that Chris had poured into and improved was going into oblivion along with all that money!

God gave me Matt 26:6 which tells of the woman pouring costly ointment on Jesus’ head.  The disciples were angry and said, “Why this waste?”

That was exactly what I had been saying.  “Why this waste?”

Judas couldn’t understand why all that expense, enough oil to perfume a thousand people, should be poured out on Jesus.  I couldn’t understand why God couldn’t turn this situation around to allow us to pay our debts.  But it was not my place to judge His methods.  Perhaps He was working out something very important in our lives.  Perhaps He was working out something very important in the lives of our creditors.  I didn’t have the ability to figure it out.  All I could do was give thanks.

August 10th was the day that Chris and I went to the lawyer’s office to sign the paper work.  Before we left the house, I asked God for a word.

“Thus says the LORD, stand at the crossroads and look,

 and ask for the ancient path, where the good way lies;

 and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” Jer 6:16

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This scripture sank deep into my spirit and I sensed that it was extremely important.  We were standing at a crossroads.  We could choose to continue to live as we always had, in denial of these painful circumstances.  We could curl up under the covers and cry for months (which is what I wanted to do).  Or we could stand and look to God.

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We could ask for a new way of living, an ancient path that is not well-known in our modern world.

I didn’t understand what exactly that ancient eternal path was, but I made it my mission to find out.  I posted Jer 6:16 on my mirror and read it every day.  I asked God to show me.

Jesus IS THE WAY (John 14:6)!  He is the path!  To walk in this way is to abide in Him (John 15:4).

This is not about working for the LORD, but walking with the LORD.

This is not a modern course to the American dream of success and comfort, but an eternal path of laying our lives down.

Somehow picking up our cross each day to follow him –

Somehow putting His yoke on our shoulders –

Leads to REST!

Over a year later that verse is still on my mirror and I am still reading it every day.

I am still striving to enter into that rest.

I am convinced that there is nothing more important or profitable that I could do with my life than abide in Christ.

If it took a bankruptcy to bring me to that realization then, “Thank you God!”

Wisdom is More Profitable Than Silver (The Death of Signarama part 3)

 

dsc_0145It is heartbreaking to watch a dream die.  It is scary to watch your livelihood slip away.  Yet, in times like those God draws so close and SPEAKS!  What could be more precious than the very WORDS OF GOD!

I was cozy in my “nursing mother’s room” at HealthSouth Pediatrics when I asked God this question.

“What about all your words to me about Signarama?  Words about success, a good harvest, and a good inheritance that would produce fruit for us?”

“Happy are those who find wisdom and those who get understanding,

                For her income is better than silver,

                And her revenue is better than gold.”

Proverbs 3:13 was the answer.

Another version says, “Wisdom is more profitable than silver and yields a better return than gold.”

                God hadn’t given us the money we had asked for, but He had given us something much more valuable…wisdom.  If we could only identify that wisdom and harness it for the rest of our lives, how profitable we would be!

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I was certain that Chris had gained much wisdom in the realm of business.  I began to ask myself what wisdom God had given me.  I came up with this list.

  1. Ask people to pray for you on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help.
  2. Supernatural business (like ministry or anything else) flows out of who we are, not what we do. Who we are (identity) comes from intimacy with God.
  3. The presence of God and our relationship with God should be our priority every day.
  4. God has been purifying our faith which is worth more than gold.
  5. We cannot create or multiply wealth, but God can.
  6. We should live for God’s renown.
  7. We should seek His kingdom first.
  8. If we are not joyful, we are not recognizing His presence because in His presence is fullness of joy!

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I began to review all of the teachings and messages I had been absorbing in the past year.

  1. We should seek God to know Him, not to get a message to preach or even a healing. – Todd White
  2. Supernatural business keys are the presence of God and knowing your true identity. – Lance Wallnau
  3. Without intimacy, there is no fruit. – Heidi Baker
  4. We worship because we love God, not to get something. – Bill Johnson
  5. We shouldn’t ask God to bless our plans. We should find out what God is already doing and join Him. – Henry Blackaby
  6. “The Christian life wasn’t about running like a maniac; it was about walking with God….What is walking with God? Simple. Doing what He asks you to do each and every day.  Living in active relationship with Him.  Filling your mind with His word, and letting that word penetrate every waking moment.” – Phil Visher
  7. “To receive My Word into your heart must be your quest every day. Then you will begin to see…That is your whole purpose now – to walk closer to me each day.”  Jesus speaking to Rick Joyner
  8. The secret source to more success and fruit in business (and in everything) is the level of connection with the very Person of God. – Andy Mason
  9. There is a faith that you can reach out and grab onto. Not just faith for your current circumstances but faith to access a new life.  Reach out and grab hold of your sonship and your inheritance. – Dylan Krause

We may have many dreams and goals but…

God Himself is THE goal and THE prize and THE destination!

Those who seek Him WILL find Him…so how can we be disappointed!