2020 is Still Going to be a Great Year!

Chris and I both felt excitement as the New Year 2020 was approaching.  We had more hope for the future than we had experienced for several years. 

Chris kept saying, “This will be a good and blessed New Year!”

               I was hearing the same message in my own heart and from others in the body of Christ.  Brian Simmons visited our church at the end of January, and his wife said that 2020 was going to be a year of redemption and a year of “a flying eagle company.”

                I loved that word!  I have been searching the skies for eagles for the past two years.  In February our family took a day trip to Gifford Pinchot State Park.  It was 55 degrees, sunny, and beautiful.  The children were fishing, playing on the playground, and throwing football.  I was sitting in the sunshine with my eyes closed, letting my mind wander.  I began to wonder what 2020 had in store for us.  Would Ashlyn get surgery to correct her scoliosis?  Would it go well for her? Would we be able to take a family vacation?  Would we experience prosperity this year?  Or would an unexpected tragedy befall us?  I didn’t know, but I felt safe in God’s hands.  Peace surrounded me.

                I stood and opened my eyes and there it was! 

A bald eagle was flying right above us in the perfectly blue sky. It was so close.

http://Photo by Frank Cone from Pexels

                It was my eighth eagle sighting.  Eight is the number of new beginnings.  That same week, God had given me three different chapters of Isaiah to read.  These are the verses that jumped out.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up: do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland…” Is 43:18-19

“From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you.They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today.” Is 48:6-7

“Pay close attention now: I am creating new heavens and a new earth. All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain are things of the past, to be forgotten. Look ahead with joy. Anticipate what I’m creating: I’ll create Jerusalem as sheer joy, create my people as pure delight.” Is 65:17-18 (MSG)

                LOOK AHEAD WITH JOY, God said!

                All that has happened since February is something new and unexpected.  I never anticipated this “pandemic” or how governments and people would respond to it. Yet I am still looking ahead with joy.

                Our lives have been restricted.  Many businesses had to shut down and many people can no longer work.  We can’t gather or attend church in person.  Yet necessity is the mother of invention, and I see inventions and innovations coming out of this time. 

I see new perspectives, new systems and new ways of doing things.  Businesses, our economy and our country could emerge from this crisis better and stronger than ever. 

                Most of us are told to stay in our homes with our families.  Forced to be with our families: to eat together, talk together, work together, and experience every moment of every day together – wow!  What a novel idea for most modern families!

I love having 9 of my children home with me every day.  Reason # 1002 to have lots of children: you will never be lonely, isolated, or bored during a pandemic.  Reason #1003: you have an instant party to celebrate any birthday or special day that might come around. (Reasons #1-1001 will have to be the subject of another article since they are too numerous and too wondrous to discuss here.)

Families are getting closer and stronger.

We are no longer taking our families for granted. They are our support network, our community, our church, and our greatest mission field.  The family is God’s glory center, and it is the foundation for His next move, His next awakening, His next revival.

It seems as though our enemy has us trapped, yet all the enemy’s plans will be used by God to destroy him (Ps 54:5).  Darkness is being exposed and the light is shining brighter than ever. 2020 is the year of clear vision and things are starting to come into focus. 

It is becoming very evident who trusts in the Lord and who doesn’t.

“There is no peace for the wicked.” Is 48:22

“One who trusts (in Jesus) will not panic.” Is 28:16

“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” Pr 28:1

Many non-believers and believers alike are realizing that they need to repent.  Many people are seeking peace and seeking God.

Many Christians are moving out of the ordinary into something new…a baptism of fire!  We are letting go of comfort and happiness and pursuing the kingdom.  We are moving away from self-preservation and learning about the wisdom of the cross; to lay down our lives to gain true life, to surrender ourselves to obtain true liberty.

I am praying along with Lou Engle that God would pour out his Spirit on us.

It will be something that only God can do and something we have never seen before!

How glorious for multitudes to turn to Jesus!

How earth-shaking when every Jesus follower confidently declares,

The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim FREEDOM for the prisoners and recovery of SIGHT for the blind.” Luke 4:18

And then not just say it, but actually do it!

As I was formulating this article in my mind, I randomly opened up my Bible to the second chapter of Joel.  The entire book is just perfect for this time in history.  What God highlighted to me was His response to his people after their fast. Tens of thousands of people all over the world have just finished a 40 day fast. Perhaps God is saying this to us right now.

“I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully…Rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you autumn rains in abundance…the threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.  I will repay you for the years the locust have eaten…

And afterwards I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”

He Will Satisfy My Desires with Good Things

I looked up from cooking in the kitchen and caught a glimpse of something that made my heart swell with an unfamiliar joy.  What was I feeling?  A thrill? A wave of delight?  It happened a few more times that day as I gazed across my home to see the view past the dining room, past the sitting room, and through the large front window to the porch. This strange sensation reminded me of Is 60:5 (NIV), “Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy…”

                What was causing this unexpected joy?  I could see four hanging baskets overflowing with pink and yellow flowers on my porch.  MY PORCH!! I had dreamed of having hanging baskets for as long as we had had a porch.  Every spring I thought, “This might just be the year!”  Then every spring reality hit.  Food was more important that hanging baskets, which at their cheapest were $20 a pop.  Yet now I was beholding them in all their horticultural glory, and they made me so happy!

                It seemed rather silly to get so excited about plants. I had just seen them at Sharp Shopper, a little past their prime and disheveled.  I got the lot of them for $24.  Once we hung them up outside, they had bloomed all over again.  It almost felt like a miracle. 

Then I remembered something I had written in my journal last year.  I looked it up and found an entry from 2/2/18.  I had been feeling horrible for about a month and a half with my pregnancy.  It had been just long enough to convince me that I would always feel this way and would never enjoy life again.  I would sit on the sofa trying to be still, taking peaceful cleansing breaths to keep the nausea away.  I found that it helped to close my eyes and picture things that made me happy.  I pictured Chris and me on a Baby-moon to Cape May, sun on our faces, and sand in our toes. 

I also pictured our front yard, landscaped and beautiful.  There would be a raised bed in front of the porch where I could plant veggies and herbs.  There would be planters overflowing with flowers on the concrete blocks next to the steps up to the porch. More planters would grace either side of our lovely front door.  Most importantly there would be hanging baskets all around the porch.  Just thinking of springtime and the beauty and aroma of flowers made me feel better. In fact, I drew a picture of it in my journal and wrote, “Flowers are a sign of prosperity to me, to have the extra time and money to have flowers.” I didn’t expect to see this dream realized for a few years yet.  But it helped me to imagine.

                That is why I felt my heart thrill and rejoice when I saw those flowers hanging outside.  It was a desired fulfilled, a dream realized, a sign of God’s faithfulness to bring prosperity into my life before I thought that He would.

After coming out of a season of disappointment, over and over again disappointment, the thrill that went through my heart felt foreign. I almost wanted to dismiss it as unimportant.  No need to get crazy and all bent out of shape over flowers!  I didn’t want to rush in and think that all my desires would be fulfilled.  I didn’t want to really start to dream very much again.

                Thankfully God showed me scriptures that allowed me to savor this joy, rather than toss it aside. One had been up on my mirror for months.

Ps 103:5 “…who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Others He gave me in the next week.

Pr. 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desired fulfilled is a tree of life.

Pr. 13:19 A desire realized is sweet to the soul…

                I sat down and wrote down all my desires that had been fulfilled lately. I came up with 14 of them.  Things I had been thinking about, researching, longing for, and praying for. 

                FOURTEEN OF MY DESIRES HAD BEEN FULFILLED!

Just to look at them all in a list lifted my spirit and caused me to praise God.  I was no longer in a season of disappointment. 

I was in a season of desires and promises being fulfilled.

                Yet I almost MISSED IT!  I was so used to being disappointed that it was easy to continue to be.  If I thought of all the challenges that lay ahead, all the prayers that had not yet been answered, I would feel like a victim.  If I thought of my dream journal sitting up in my closet for over 4 years, untouched because I didn’t want to open old wounds, I felt tired and washed out.  Dreaming like that was for the young who have extra time and energy to invest in their dreams. I need to just be happy with my lot and make it through the day.

                NO WAIT! God said that He is satisfying my desires so that my youth is being renewed!

                I am not a victim!

                I am not in a season of disappointment!

                I can look at my world with eyes wide open.  When I see the flowers overflowing – I can let my heart thrill!

                When I see the butterflies and the hummingbirds flock to the beauty – I can be radiant!

I know that God cares about what we care about.  I know that He loves beauty. I know He delights to see His children rejoice because they have received their heart’s desire. I love it when I can give my children a gift that awakens wonder and excitement in them. How much more does God feel that way?

                If we delight ourselves in the Lord, He WILL give us the desires of our hearts.  He is doing it right now, every day.  Let’s open our eyes and notice it.  Let’s make a big fuss over it! Let’s put a smile on our Father’s face when we realize how very good He is!

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!]

Too Small a Thing (The Death of Signarama Part 2)

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I honestly think that our failures are more useful than our successes.  They certainly provide us with the opportunity to humble ourselves and acknowledge our need for God.  God doesn’t waste anything, and failure is a treasure trove of learning if we will take the time to seek out that treasure.  It is painful to come face to face with our shortcomings, but oh so worth it!

As we were heading toward the end of Signarama, I took every available moment to seek God.  I needed to hear His voice because it seemed like our circumstances were contradicting everything I thought He had told me.

I thought He had told us to buy the business.  Despite my fears and uncertainty about it, He had given me supernatural peace.  I thought that He had promised to prosper Signarama.  I thought that He had promised to use it to bring us the wonderful provision that He kept talking to me about.  Through the four years of running the business, we experienced ups and downs, but mostly downs.  Yet through it all, I had felt the peace of God.

Now that we faced our own inability to keep the business going, I questioned whether I had heard God correctly.  Could I even hear His voice at all?  How could I ever be sure that I knew what His will was?  How could I avoid making the same mistakes in the future?

Annalise was just a newborn, nursing about 8 times a day for an hour at a time.  Nursing this sweet little girl was my full-time job.  I still had to take Ashlyn to therapy once a week at HealthSouth.  Ashlyn’s therapist gave me my own little office to set up camp during the hour and 45 minutes that we were there.  I could nurse, read, and pray in a quiet, private room while Ashlyn did physical and speech therapy.  What an amazing gift!

Each week I would get cozy in a chair with Annalise and a nursing pillow.  I would set out my Bible, journal, and pen on the little rolling desk. All my other children were in school or at home with my two teenage babysitters, and I had uninterrupted quiet times. I would ask God all my questions….and He would speak!  How precious those times were!

One day I was mourning the loss of our dream.  Chris always said during the pain and struggle of business ownership, “It just has to be worth it!”  I always felt that it definitely would be worth it…eventually.  Business people kept telling us that after 2-5 years we would really see the profits.  Eventually, if we had the right team of employees in place, Chris would be able to work less but make more.  He would have the freedom to pursue other investments, to spend time with the family, and to take vacations.  Signarama would be an investment that would bless us for the rest of our lives, and perhaps one of our children would want to take it over when Chris retired.

Yet, we couldn’t make it to the point of earning a profit.  We were facing the reality of losing everything we had put into it and moving backwards in our goals and finances.

It had not been worth it at all!!!

                God gave me the scripture Is 49:4.

“But I said, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.”

Isaiah was describing exactly how I was feeling!  I continued to read.

“Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”

Could there possibly be a reward in all of this?  We just had to trust God that He was holding our reward even though we could see nothing good in failure.

When I talked to Chris about all of this, he told me that he had been meditating on the same scripture!  God certainly was trying to tell us something.

Another day at HealthSouth, I asked God, “Was it your perfect will for us to buy Signarama when we did?”

He gave me Is 49:6.

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

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God had spoken this to Isaiah right after he had lamented about spending his strength in vain.  Isaiah was being obedient to give God’s words to the Jewish people, yet he didn’t see any fruit.  No one was listening to him.  He was probably threatened and harassed for his message, and he couldn’t see what good could possible come from his pitiful ministry.

Yet God surprised Isaiah by telling him that his vision of bringing his people back to God (a vision that seemed totally unrealized) was way too small.  God was telling Isaiah that he would also bring the light of salvation to the non-Jews all over the world.  How could Isaiah have imagined how far his words would reach and how many people would be impacted by them?  For the past 10 years I have lived in the book of Isaiah!  The words of God recorded by that discouraged prophet have been a life line to me!

I bet Isaiah never imagined that a little mom and housewife in Pennsylvania would be forever impacted by his ministry.  Yet here I am, writing an article about him!  I bet most of you reading this have also been blessed by Isaiah.

I was very comforted by the thought that God was going to use our lives in ways we could not imagine, despite of, or maybe because of our failure.  Still, we were praying that God would do a miracle right now that we could see.  Resurrect our business, bring in the finances to keep going, bring us to the place where we could make a profit and recoup all our investment and more!  The days went by and no miracle came.  Why was God saying, “no” to our pleas?

After my time with God at HealthSouth, I began listening to some CDs that had been recorded at a recent conference at my church.  I came across a quote from Lance Wallnau that spoke directly to my heart.

“God says no to what you want simply because He has something better in mind.  If God isn’t answering Joseph’s plea to be released from the confinement of his prison cell, it’s only because Joseph, prophet, man of God, blameless as he may be, has a smaller perception of what prophecy fulfilled looks like than God has.  In other words, he was willing to settle for a whole lot less than God had in mind so God had to keep him in a place of contradiction until the timing was right for him to be released to the greater thing God had.”

Could this be what was happening in our lives?  God had promised prosperity, we had pursued prosperity, and we had failed.  God’s promise was still true, but His plan was even greater than we had originally thought.  Was Signarama “too small a thing?”  Did God have something much greater for us?

We purchased Signarama because we wanted something better for our family than struggling from paycheck to paycheck.  We were in pursuit of the American Dream; that if you worked hard with skill and determination, you would achieve a better life for yourself and your children.

“Is Signarama a picture of what we could do with our own hard work?” I asked God.

“We were with child, we writhed, but we gave birth only to wind.  We have won no victories on the earth.” Is 26:18 was the answer that I received.

Perhaps God’s dream was higher than the American dream?

“How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.  I thought you would call me ‘father’ and not turn away from following me.” Jer 3:19 was the scripture I got next.

This reminded me of the book I had been reading, God with You at Work by Andy Mason.  Chris and I knew in our heads that we were God’s children and He was our Father.  Yet reading this book had made me realize that the way we thought and lived our lives were indications of an orphan mentality.  Truly being a son and daughter the way Andy described it was so foreign to my thinking that I could hardly understand it.

He said that the key to doing business in a kingdom culture was behaving like sons.  To live in our inheritance that Jesus already won for us rather than working so hard for payment.  To cease from striving and self-effort and to do all our work out of rest.  To not seek God to attain His blessings, but to seek Him for relationship simply because we love Him so much.  Then we would be able to watch the amazing things that God would do on our behalf.

People in the world are successful in business all the time with no relationship with God.  They have innovative ideas, work hard, and achieve great things while having no understanding of God as their father!  Why could WE not succeed even though we had sought God every step of the way and asked for His blessings?

Perhaps it was because we have also prayed crazy, outrageous prayers such as:

Give us more of you!

Give us YOUR dreams and visions.

Don’t let us fall short of YOUR plans for us.

Don’t let our lives be ineffective.

Let us impact eternity.

We want to see and participate in signs and wonders.

Bring all of our children into their destinies.

Prayers like that mean that a financial success out of our own hard work was “too small a thing.”  God has something bigger for us like he had for Isaiah and Joseph.  Something that requires us to actually become the people He intended us to be.  That can only happen by seeking Him more and more each day.  By being uncomfortable to know that we need Him.  By seeking His kingdom first.

We can never achieve this by working hard.  We can never step into our sonship and inheritance by working hard.  Signarama was all about working hard.  God cares about us too much to let us earn success from our own hard work.  He wants us to become a son and a daughter and to see real success happen out of rest.  Success that He brings about with His amazing power – not our own abilities or intelligence.

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I still don’t understand this whole “sonship” thing.  How can I just accept His unconditional love for me? How can I just live in my inheritance?  You mean I never have to work hard to earn it?  I never have to prove anything?  God delights in me just the way I am right now, failures and mistakes and all?

You mean I never have to worry about provision because God ALWAYS provides for His children?  I don’t have to seek after these things but can seek His kingdom? This I just don’t understand.

But at least now I KNOW that I don’t understand it.  I can ask God to show me and help me.  I have the death of Signarama to thank for that!

 

A Cure for the Negativity that is All Around

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Have you noticed the negativity all around us lately, with the election and the terrorist attacks and the accusations of racism?  What a silly question!  We have all noticed it.  My last article was “How I feel About Donald Trump”, and I had never written anything “political” or “controversial” before.  I was expecting to be attacked by the negativity that has been so prevalent.  I was pleasantly surprised that most of the feedback was very positive.  Thank you, those who took the time to read my thoughts!  Thank you to those who have hearts open to hear a message of hope!  Thank you to those who gave me encouragement!  One word of encouragement is stronger than a thousand of negative ones!

I am not surprised at all by the negativity of the media or of non-Christians in general.  All of these precious people were created to be in a relationship with a God.  They have not yet encountered that perfect love and have undoubtedly had their share of hurt and disappointment.  They were created for a perfect place, yet live in a world full of sorrow and suffering.  They are angry and bitter and don’t even know exactly who they should be angry with.  Many of them fight with all their strength against the very thing that could heal their anger and put their world right again.  Before we as Christian judge them too harshly, let us remember the words of Abraham Lincoln when he was criticized for wanting to treat the South with compassion, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”  Let us be encouraged by the story of Saul of Tarsus and dare to believe that the greatest enemy of God today could be His greatest champion tomorrow!

What I have been very shocked by is the attitude of many Christians in this elections.  Christians should not be impressed by the negativity that the media is trying to feed us.  We should not look at the world the way the “world” looks at itself.  Jesus said that we shouldn’t judge unless we want to be judged.

Yet I understand why Christians have been so very judgmental.  I make judgments all the time.  Most are unconscious – I just think I am observing and then coming to a logical conclusion.  I want to understand the world around me and why things are the way they are.  My brain gathers the information it is given, processes it according to my own experiences and my unique world view and comes up with a determination that makes sense to me.  My own wisdom provides a false sense of security.

It is false because my thoughts are not like God’s thoughts.  My ways are not like His ways.  He is so much higher and has a different perspective.  He sees all things that ever were, all things that are, and all that will be.  He sees with complete clarity from a heart of perfect love.

I am so thankful when God proves me wrong!  I love it when a person who I thought was mean and grumpy turns out to be my best friend!  I love it when a situation that appeared to be hopeless gets turned around and becomes the most amazing story of redemption! My incorrect judgments have been exposed enough times for me to realize that the kingdom of God is backwards according to my wisdom.  God loves to make the first last and the last first.  He loves to use the foolish things to confound the wise.  He loves to surprise us and do the unexpected.

I think the reason that Jesus spoke to the masses in parables was that he wanted true followers.  True followers are not those who are excellent at following the rules and what seems to be logical.  True followers of Jesus are those who have an active relationship with God, who listen for His voice every day.  We need His voice to navigate through this confusing world…and GOD DESIGNED IT THAT WAY!

When Jesus told the crowd, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”, do you think He wanted the people to come to the most logical conclusion about Him…either that he was insane or had a morbid fascination with death?  He wanted as followers only those people who were willing to seek the voice of God to reveal to them the truth and beauty of His statement that was offensive to most.  Perhaps even more than that, Jesus wanted followers that trusted Him enough to follow even if they didn’t understand.  Their love and loyalty to this “Son of Man” who had proven His character to them again and again superseded their need to understand.

God’s wondrous plan of salvation for mankind was understood by no man on this earth while it was unfolding.  Even though Jesus explained it clearly to his closest disciples, they were in despair when it all happened.

Isaiah said this about Jesus;

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

If I had been there at the cross to see Jesus, beaten and bloodied so that he no longer looked like a man, naked and reviled so I would have to turn my eyes away; how would I have judged that scene?  How would I have judged Jesus?  I probably would have thought, “What a poor wretched man.  What did he do to deserve such a death?  This is one of the worst things I have ever witnessed.  This is one of the darkest hours in all human history.”

Yet this man was perfect, powerful, and indescribably beautiful.  He was not a lowly criminal but the King of the Universe.  He accomplished all that He had set out to do, and it was actually the most powerful moment in human history.  The moment that sin and death were defeated and all of us were set free…FOREVER!!!

We miss what God is doing because we are focused on the wrong things.  If something is despised or rejected by men…it might just be God.

Yes, we need to discern what is the Holy Spirit and what is not.  We need to understand what God is doing RIGHT NOW and join HIM in His work.  We need to seek His heart and come into unity with Him.

I am not talking about false hope or putting our faith in something that isn’t real.  I am not talking about closing our eyes to evil and pretending that it isn’t there. I hate that!  I hate believing in lies and I hate disappointment!  Yet, those who put their hope in God will not be disappointed!  I am talking about a reality that is more real than what we see around us.  I am talking about a reality that is higher.

Alaska. Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in flight. Wing span can reach 6.6 feet. Males can grow up to 9lbs in weight, 50,000 bald eagles live in Alaska.

Once I had to seek that reality just to survive.  How thankful I am for that time, for I will not be so easily deceived again.  You see, I was part of a church that specialized in showing people their sins.  They thought they were doing God’s work by helping to “perfect” all the people around them.  What they were really doing was speaking the words of the Accuser which only brought condemnation and despair.

They had been working to try and “fix” me for a few years.  They finally decided that I was too “broken” to remain part of the church.  They said nothing to me about this decision but discussed it among themselves.  That morning in my quiet time God gave me a scripture that I will never forget.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her

that her hard service has been completed,

that her sin has been paid for, Is 40:1-2

 Even though God was speaking tenderly to me, the church was not. One of the church leaders called my husband to a special meeting and proceeded to tell him that our family could no longer be part of the church because of my sin.  She said that I was so deep into my iniquity (no specific sin was mentioned) that I was interfering with their prayers.  She said that I was keeping Chris from his destiny, and that it was never God’s will for him to marry me in the first place.  She believed that eventually I would leave Chris. Once that happened, he could return to the church.

When Chris told me what they had said to him, I felt as though I had been punched in the gut and had all the wind knocked out of me.  Did I believe the words of the Lord that I had received earlier in the day?  I am sorry to say that I did not.  The words of man are spoken so much louder and seem to be much clearer.  Chris and I spent many days in darkness and condemnation, trying to find a way out.

Still the voice of the Lord was whispering to me, and I sought Him like never before!  One night I was praying over our family and wondering what would happen next without our church, our friends, our support network, and our future as we had envisioned it.  I saw in my mind a picture of an eagle’s nest.  It was so high in the rocks of a mountain that you couldn’t see the earth below.  The nest was full of baby birds.  I felt God say,

That is your family.  You are meant to be eagles and you are to raise your children to be eagles.”

            My first thought was, “How dangerous to raise my children on the side of a cliff.  What if they fell and went crashing to their deaths?”

But then I realized that eagles were born to be up there.  It was their natural habitat, and they were not afraid of it.  Babies eagles were born to fly, and fly they most certainly would!  They were born to view the earth from a different perspective, a higher perspective.

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They can see more at one time and see for longer distances than most animals.  But what if an eagle is confined to the ground, to see only what is right in front of them.  What if they are thrown down to the dirt and are unable to rise and feel the wind carry them above the smog and the grime.  What if they are down there for so long that they forget the beauty of the clouds and the heavens above?

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I imagine that they would get frustrated, then afraid, then angry, then bitter…just as I have in the past.  Just as many Christian have during this election.  I am so thankful that God has given me wings and lifted me up where I belong.

Children of God…you were born to fly!

But those who wait on 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.

 The other voices out there will yell at you!  They will attract your attention with flashing lights and mesmerizing images.  They will pull you in and hold you captive.  But the voice of the Lord is still and it is small.  In order to hear it, we must silence all other voices, we must silence our own thoughts, and we must wait on the Lord!

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Wait on the Lord!  For you are a great company of eagles born to fly!

 

Breaking Through to Prosperity

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“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2

I had always found great comfort in this verse during times of trial, knowing that no matter how hard my life got, God would not let the troubles overwhelm me.  Most of these trials have had to do with finances.  How many times can you drive around the same block of “not enough in my bank account” before you realize that you are in the wrong neighborhood and hightail it out of there?  Seemed to me that we had tried a million different paths to a million different locations and always ended up in the same place – that run down, ugly part of town called “Lack”

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otherwise known as “Hope Deferred”

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or “Too many Big Dreams and Not Enough Money.”

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I was praying again for some insight on how to conduct our lives in a way that would lead us to that abundant peace and prosperity that the Bible is always talking about.  Again God gave me Isaiah 43.  But this time I understood it in a very different way.

Perhaps the most dangerous and powerful rivers in this life were not hardships as I had supposed.  Perhaps success, wealth, and the praises of man were far more perilous.  Perhaps the fiercest flames were not that of failure and rejection but that of acceptance and comfort.

My husband, Chris, loves music and had gotten in the habit of watching the TV show “Behind the Music.”  I don’t know very many popular bands, but I could predict the basic story line of almost every show.  A few guys had some talent and big dreams to become rich and famous.  They achieved their dream after varying degrees of time and effort.  They were worshiped by fans. They had enough money to make every desire and whim become a reality.  They had everything they ever wanted…and it just wasn’t enough. They would spiral out of control with excess; drinking, women, and drugs.  Many of them ruined their families and careers.  Some even lost their lives.  The blessed few humbled themselves and got their lives back on track.

What I learned is that quick and easy success is no blessing!  The adoration of fans is no blessing!  Abundant wealth is no blessing…if you do not have the character to handle it…it will destroy you.

If all our dreams came true tomorrow, I wouldn’t become a drug addict.  Chris wouldn’t become a womanizer.  Yet we could become prideful without even realizing it.  We could rejoice in our own wisdom and power.  We might be tempted to lead others to our most excellent way rather than point them to THE WAY.  We might become too comfortable to seek His kingdom first.

I began to read Isiah 43 in a new light.  Chris and I had learned so much through our 19 years of marriage.  How to better budget our money.  How to work as a team.  How to pray and trust God more.  How to leave behind generational curses.  We had made so much progress, yet we still did not see the prosperity that God had promised us.

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Then I heard His still, small voice.

“What is left is for you to do is to seek me and know me more.  Every moment of everyday, take the opportunity to sink your roots deeper into the soil of my love and truth.  I am withholding the mighty river of overwhelming blessing simply because you are not yet ready to handle it. Until your roots are firmly anchored in me, it could sweep you away.”

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I am so thankful that God is keeping me safe from myself.  I am so thankful that his promises mean that someday I will be like Jesus; able to steward great power and responsibility without letting it control me.  Being able to humbly accept both abundance and lack and be content.  I will be able to follow the advice of Rudyard Kipling.

“If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same.”

Triumph and Disaster and are powerful forces that could consume all that is good in our lives.  Yet if we are already completely consumed by the Lover of Our Souls, those two impostors have no chance at moving us… except deeper into his embrace.

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Birth Story: Part 4 – Chai, the One Who Brought Redemption!

 

I was pregnant with number five, and I knew I needed to try something different!  I had gained enough hospital experiences to last me the rest of my life.  I would have been happy to never return.

Ashlyn, who was now 18 months, was a developmentally delayed because of a rare chromosomal abnormality.  She was surprisingly healthy and incredibly happy…except when we visited any doctor’s office.  They she cried and screamed inconsolably.  She had had her fill of hospitals and doctors as well!  How different things would have been for her if I would have had the courage to try a home birth.

But this time I was ready!  I read and studied. All my research concluded the same thing.  Every study ever done comparing hospital births to home-births (assisted by a trained midwife) revealed that home-births were safer!  Home-birth labors were faster, less painful and required less intervention.  There were fewer chances for infection, injury, and death for both mother and baby.  I interviewed the home-birth midwives in Colorado Springs.  I found a very experienced midwife named Merrie who I just loved.  She thoroughly enjoyed what she did for a living, and she put me at ease.  I asked Merrie about what would happen if we had another child like Ashlyn.  The doctors had told us that it was a possibility.  She was just fine with it and reassured us that she was trained to transport us to the hospital at the very first sign of problems.

The pregnancy began with a bit of fear and trepidation.  What if this child was born with problems?  I would recognize Ashlyn’s distinctive features as soon as the child was born.  I imagined what I would feel; looking into the eyes of another “special” child and wondering if I would be able to handle the strain of it all.  Ashlyn was still like a baby.  She did not yet sit up or crawl, although she had started to scoot herself around on her belly in a funny one-legged pattern. Who knew what the future held for her?  Yet, her smile brought so much joy, her sweet spirit ministered to me.  I knew I wouldn’t trade her for the world!  She was the perfect baby for me!  I didn’t know how her life would unfold, but God did, and He said it was good!  I realized that even if this unborn child had problems, I would love him or her just as much!

Slowly and steadily, as the baby grew in my belly, so did my peace and trust in God.  I knew that having a home-birth was the right decision.  I knew that this baby would be fine.  We found out that the baby was a boy, and Chris and I searched for a name that would bring redemption to all of the problems that Ashlyn had been having.  We chose Chai Erik which meant, “Healthy and Powerful!”  Every time called him by his name, we were prophesying to him that he was healthy and powerful!

If you read my last post, Birth Story: Part 3, you will remember our bad church situation.  When Ashlyn was four months old, our family was kicked out of that church.  It was the best thing that could have happened to us!  We were now being reunited with truth and love and had rediscovered the joy of our salvation!  We also realized that where we really wanted to live was back in our hometown in Pennsylvania.  Life Center, the church we had grown up in and had been married in, wanted to hire Chris!  God was working out all the amazing details for us to move back home!  We were full of deep, deep gratitude!

Three and a half weeks before my due date, Life Center flew Chris out to Pennsylvania for the final interview. He was having a wonderful time reconnecting with dear friends.  I was at home taking care of four young children and throwing up every few hours with contractions that tightened my very huge belly!  The ladies at Life Center thought I was going into labor!  I reassured them that it was only a stomach bug.  I had never thrown up in labor before, and I wasn’t going to start now!

Chris returned home the next day and I was feeling better!  We were so excited about packing and moving across the country to our new lives!  We just had to wait for this baby to be born.

We didn’t have to wait long.  The very next night around two in the morning, I rolled over in bed and my water broke.  At first a wave of fear washed over me.  This was how it had all started with Ahslyn.  First my water had broken, then no contractions, then the hospital, then lots of rude people, then Pitocin, then birth defects, then…on and on my mind churned.  What if this labor was like the last time?  I tried to get some sleep, but I couldn’t. When the sun rose, I quietly got out of bed and sat at the kitchen table with my Bible and notebook.

“OK God, I really need to hear your voice now.  I do not want to listen to the voice of fear,” I prayed.

God put verses Isaiah 66:7-9 into my mind.  I looked them up and as I read, peace and joy washed over my spirit in healing waves.  I couldn’t hold back my worship and love for this God who had just given me the best verses that any pregnant woman could ever hope to receive!

Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son.  Who has ever heard of such a thing?  Who has ever seen such things?  Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?  Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. ‘Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?’ says the LORD.”

God spoke to the very depth of my fears; that labor wouldn’t start for days and this baby wouldn’t be born.  Yet God was saying that he would be born in a day and that I would give birth before the pains came upon me!  I was so relieved and thankful!

Then I became a bit agitated.  This baby was coming fast and nothing was ready!  Chris was still sleeping; the birthing pool wasn’t set up; the midwife wasn’t there.  I started having contractions, and I woke Chris up.

“I think we need to set up the birthing pool!” I said.  He seemed to take his good old time!  He didn’t feel the same urgency that I did.  When I was having contractions about every five minutes, we called Merrie to come over.  She arrived with another midwife.  I slipped into the warm birthing pool which was really just a kiddie pool with brightly colored fish decorating the sides.  I was so comfortable that my contractions completely stopped.

“I am in no hurry.  I will stay here for as long as it takes,” Merrie said. “Although, you do need to have contractions if you want to have a baby.  I have a homeopathic remedy that could start the contractions coming more regularly, if you want it.”

I said that would be great.  It was a tiny dose of minuscule white pills.  Sure enough, soon those contractions were coming again.  The pain was not bad at all, but I was feeling it in my back.  Pretty soon I had gotten onto my knees to lean over the side of the pool.  Merrie applied pressure to my back with every contraction and that helped immensely.

“I have a feeling that the back pain is being cause by the baby flipped in the wrong direction,” Mary said. “I think if he turns, he will come right out!  I have another homeopathic remedy that will turn the baby, but if he is in the correct position now, it won’t change that.”

I took it and a short time later I felt a very funny flipping and flopping feeling inside of me.  He turned!  Because the pain was so minimal, I was aware of the baby descending into the birth canal.  I knew he was coming soon!  Chris was casually taking orders for lunch.  He was planning on running out to pick up some Chinese food and eating lunch before the baby was born.

“Chris you don’t have time for that.  He is coming!  I think he is coming now!”

Merrie asked Chris if he wanted to catch the precious bundle.

“Sure!’ Chris said as he knelt on the floor and leaned over the birthing pool.  Chai came sliding into the world under the water and into Chris’ waiting hands.  It was 11:55am and we were looking at a perfect, beautiful, and normal baby boy!

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I sat in the warm water and held him close.  We were so cozy and comfortable that we remained in the water for another half an hour and made our excited announcement calls to friends and family.

Finally we both got dried off and transferred to my bed.  I felt so incredibly happy and comfortable.  I wasn’t even bothered by those pesky after-contractions that had hurt so much the previous times.

God words had proven true!  My greatest fears had not been manifested.  In fact, just the opposite had been true!  I understood that just as God had brought this baby forth so easily, He would also bring us into our promised land. It would be His grace and His favor that would bring us into the new lives we were longing and yearning for with all of our hearts!  He had brought us redemption!

My Children Aren’t Perfect

cole 2I had such a Glorious Vision of Motherhood.  I had such amazing dreams about child rearing.  Dreams fueled by extensive reading.

Books about how to multiply your baby’s intelligence.

Books about how to make your child physically superb.

Books about how to build strong immune systems with a traditional, whole foods diet.

Books about how to foster a lifetime love of learning by homeschooling and employing each child’s individual learning style.

Books about how to raise happy, obedient children.

And many, many more.

I was totally confident that I could achieve these goals with my knowledge and ability.  Plus God gave me these children, so he would make this glorious vision of perfection come to pass to be a beacon to the world…wouldn’t he?

An honest evaluation of my life and my children revealed to me that I have failed on every point with every child.  Every one of those dreams of child rearing has died…my Glorious Vision of Motherhood obliterated.

And what is left in the ashes of total defeat?  Dirty, messy, disobedient children who are neither geniuses nor prodigies, neither physically superb nor perfectly healthy.  They are many times rude, disrespectful, average, and markedly below average.  They often hate school and love soda.  And do I blame them?  No, I blame myself totally and completely because I am the Mother and I have failed.

“God,” I ask, “How can I move forward?”

He answers in the ancient verses of Isaiah 46:6,7.

“Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales – they hire a goldsmith, who makes it into a god; Then they fall down and worship!  They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there;  It cannot move from its place.”

What if I had all the time and money to carry out all the good advice in all of those books?  What if I had the wealth and the gold to hire a goldsmith to create for me the perfect child?  Beautifully carved, perfectly painted.  It would never get dirty or have a runny nose.  It would never pee in its bed, poop in its underwear, or throw up on the couch.  It would never be rude or illicit dirty looks from old ladies in grocery stores.  It would never scream at me and backtalk.  I wouldn’t have to worry about it falling out of a tree and breaking its perfect neck.  I wouldn’t have to prescreen every TV show it watches in order to protect its pristine mind.  I wouldn’t have to constantly be concerned about its schooling or properly stimulating its mind.  I wouldn’t have to wonder, during those moments of eerie silence, what they were destroying or who they were torturing.  I could be at peace knowing my perfect child was still sitting there…perfect.  I could lift them up on my shoulder and show the world with no shame.  Look everyone!  My stunning, marvelous child!  Forever and perpetually perfect and unchanging!  Yet cold and hard and lifeless.  No breath, no life, no will, no heart, no desires, no sin…no love.

DEAR GOD!!! My dream for my children is an idol!  A gaudy idol with eternally unblinking eyes.  That sickening chill fills my soul as I realize – I must cast that idol down, see it smash into a million pieces at my feet and ask for forgiveness.

I don’t want idols!  I want children.  I want the grimy, rosy cheek warm against mine.  I want the smell of dirt and sweat as I embrace them.  I want the tornadoes of chaos creating one mess after another.  I want the inappropriate thoughts blurted out as inappropriate words.  I want to bear their disrespect for everything I hold dear.  I want to see them struggle and sin and fall…because I get to see them rise again.  We all fall short and miss the mark, and so will my children.  When they do fall, it will not be my fault.  I get to love them and pray and love them some more.

My new dream for motherhood is immerging like the first rays of the dawn.  I am not sure what it will look like at midday, but I imagine it something like this.

Brilliant, dazzling, blinding, sparking jewels of worth beyond all estimation…peaking out bit by bit from cracked and broken jars of clay.

2 Corinthians 4:7

“Our bodies are made of clay, yet we have the treasure of the Good News in them.” God’s Word

 “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” NRS

 

Whew!  How light I feel without carrying those heavy idols around.  Now I can let God carry me (Is 46:3,4).  He gave my all of these wild children, so I think I will let him carry them too!  I am a much better mother without the false Glorious Vision of Motherhood.  Now I am free to laugh and enjoy…the imperfection of it all!