A Hawk, a Vulture, and an Eagle: God’s Voice!

I heard Bill Johnson say recently;

“Instead of emphasizing our inability or our weakness in hearing God’s voice, it would be wiser for us to emphasize His ability to be heard.”

I just experienced God’s amazing ability to be heard despite my reluctance to listen.

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The Hawk

I was just minutes from home, returning from a trip to the farm.  Calvin and I were enjoying the peaceful Saturday drive while listening to Revelations on CD.

“WHACK!!!!!”

Suddenly a huge bird slammed into the corner of my windshield with such force, I thought that certainly it must have killed itself.  I saw it only for a split second before it fell and disappeared, but it looked like a hawk.

I felt shaken.  I felt sad and guilty and wondered why this had happened.  You see, I had been searching the landscape for hawks lately.  I longed to catch sight of this bird of prey, hoping to unlock some mystery. Now I had just encountered a hawk much closer than I ever expected, and it wasn’t a good experience.  Just a moment after the sickening, “WHACK!”, a voice on the CD said…”I saw an eagle flying overhead…” (Revelation 8:13)

It had all started over a year ago when I remembered that God had told me that I was an eagle and I was to raise my children as eagles.  I wrote an article about it.  My interest in eagles became an obsession as this majestic bird kept showing up in my God encounters.  (See my some of my other articles, The Sky and the Ocean, Maleficent .)

I was never much of a bird watcher, but lately I had been watching the skies constantly, trying to spot an eagle.  Whenever I took a drive in the country, I would see huge, dark birds.  They looked so beautiful and so free, soaring high above me.

Chris was with me one day when I spotted some of my “eagles.”  I was so excited to show him.

“Those are buzzards.  You know, turkey vultures,” he informed me.

“What!  How can you tell?  They are so far away?” I said.  I was so disappointed!  Had I really been looking to the vulture for spiritual inspiration?

“Trust me, those are buzzards!”

“But I want to see an eagle!  How will I know when I see one?” I wondered.

“I don’t think eagles circle like that, and they are usually alone. They don’t spend as much time in the sky circling like the vulture does. Like the hawk I saw today, sitting in a tree.  ” Chris answered.

Google had told me that there were two eagles that lived in Pennsylvania, the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle, but they didn’t seem very common.  I decided that spotting a hawk was a much more realistic expectation.  I could learn what I needed to know from the hawk, which was very much like the eagle, just smaller, I reasoned.

I concluded that I would look for a hawk from now on.  They were smaller and lighter colored, such as the Cooper’s Hawk or the Red Tailed Hawk that Cadin had seen close to our home.  I wouldn’t get them confused with a buzzard.

I told Chris about my violent hawk sighting.  He said jokingly, “God is trying to tell you something.  He wants you to get the message so badly, that He had to smack that poor bird into your van!”

Perhaps God wanted to discourage me from looking to the hawk.  He had spoken to me about an eagle.  He had told me that I was supposed to be an eagle.  Perhaps I should believe that He would show me a real eagle.

Immediately my mind reeled.

“How ridiculous!  There probably aren’t any eagles living around here!  Even if there were, how could I see them up in a tree somewhere.  If they were flying, how could I ever tell them apart from the vulture…and I don’t want to make that embarrassing mistake again.”

The fear of disappointment came to me with such force when I even considered believing God for a real eagle sighting. The many disappointments of the past few years had conditioned that response.

The thought that I was destined to actually BE an eagle –  lifted by God’s presence, seeing from a higher perspective, speaking with a prophetic voice – seemed even more farfetched and foolish to me.  Me, the one who had been admiring the VULTURE, for goodness sake.  All my recent shortcoming flooded my mind.  I didn’t feel at all like the person I was meant to be.  I didn’t feel like I would ever learn to fly.

There it was!  The point God was trying to get across!  I had given up on being an eagle because it seemed impossible.  I had downgraded my vision to the hawk.

Then He began to show me that my thoughts and attitudes recently had been very self-loathing, full of my own failures and weaknesses.  I was reminded of a conversation I had with Chris just a week before.  I had been investigating avenues for publishing my first book.  It seemed that every possibility turned into a dead end.  The only option I found was to pay what I considered to be an exorbitant sum for assisted publishing.  And what if we spent all that money (which we didn’t have) to publish my book and no one bought it?  I was afraid to even ask friends to look over my manuscript and give feedback.  What if they thought it was too long and too boring?

Chris couldn’t understand my fears.

“Do you believe in your writing?  Do you think God Gave it to you?  Do you think He will use it to impact other people?  You have to believe in it.  The way you are talking, you sound like the vultures in Rick Joyner’s vision.” Chris said.

The Vulture

I was very familiar with this vision from the book, The Final Quest.  It meant a lot to me because I used to be a prisoner in that camp of fear.  I used to have those vultures of depression vomiting their condemnation all over me on a regular basis.  But I had found the freedom to live in the love and joy of the Kingdom of God…or so I thought.

Chris continued, “It sounds like you are speaking the words of the vultures, vomiting lies all over yourself and your writing.  You need to stop!”  Chris sounded mad.  At the time I felt that he just didn’t understand, that my insecurity and fear were justified.

Yet now, I was realizing that I had been living under this cloud of depression, thinking that it was normal.  God brought to my mind another bird sighting that had happened back in November.  God had stretched me beyond what I thought I was capable of, and I felt my authority increasing.  I had prayed crazy, unrealistic prayers.  I had received unbelievable answers to those prayers.  An amazing victory had been won!  I felt elated!  Still on an emotional high, I began to read a prophetic word posted on Facebook by Veronika West. In essence it said:

 The enemy had endured a devastating wound, but we should be on guard because a backlash was coming.  The enemy wasn’t going down without a fight.

As I pondered what that meant, I looked out the kitchen window and saw a huge vulture sitting on the roof of the church right across the street.  It was looking straight at me, and it gave me the creeps.  Perhaps it was a physical manifestation of an evil spirit, so I prayed that God would hide me, and I told it to leave. I saw the dark bird take flight, circle the church steeple, and fly away.  I had never seen a vulture in my neighborhood before that day, and I have not seen one since.

Now God was reminding me of the incident.  The light bulb went on in my head.

  My Good Father allowed me to see the strategy of the enemy against me.

The enemy knew that if I would submit to fear and allow those vultures to vomit their lies on me, I would live under that cloud of depression.  I wouldn’t be able to see clearly.  I wouldn’t trust God to flow through me.  I wouldn’t believe in Him or believe in myself.  I wouldn’t be able to take flight and become an eagle.

“Forgive me for thinking the lies are more realistic than the words you have given me,” I prayed.

The Eagle

As God began to shine His light on these things, I decided to take the risk to believe again.  I began to ask Him to let me see an eagle, a real live eagle.  I wanted to see one close enough so I wouldn’t mistake it for a vulture.

I also began to ask Him to make ME into an eagle, as unrealistic as that seemed.  The dark cloud began to lift and I began to hope again.

While all of this was taking place in my heart, I was hard at work planning a family vacation.  The first three days in October we would be staying in a cabin up north, enjoying the outdoors.  It had been three years since we had been able to get away. This was so special, so important for our family, that I wanted everything to be perfect.  I began to worry.

“What if I put in all this effort to plan and pack, and it is all for nothing?”

A thousand little details began to transform into a thousand things that could go wrong.  The fear of disappointment reared its ugly head again.  I began to think back to the last time I had tried to plan a family vacation, the last time I had prayed that God would give us a family vacation.  It was two years ago.  We had just endured 4 years of the toil and stress of business ownership.  We faced the heartbreak of having to close our business.  We were in the process of selling our sign shop.  I was praying for enough money to break even, and just a little extra to take the family camping for a week.   A week to reconnect and to heal.

My heart’s desire was deferred.  The sale fell through.  Bills, debts, and bankruptcy ensued…but no family vacation. Why did I think that it would work out for us this time?

“I am doing it again! I will not live under that cloud of fear and lies!   I need to believe that my Good Father is working everything out for us.  I need to just trust Him!  This will be a wonderful vacation!  It will be a blessing to each child and bring us all closer together,” I thought to myself.

My faith began to rise again.  I watched my Good Father work out every detail.  He gave us a cabin to stay in for free!  He worked out the schedules of all the children and gave us everything that we needed.

I was getting the feeling that my Father was orchestrating this vacation to be a redemption of the one that we had lost.  I was beginning to expect Him to speak to me in wonderful ways while we were away.

“And perhaps I will even see an eagle!”  I began to think.

To Be Continued…

 

 

Our 21st Honeymoon: A Moonrise, A Sunset, and a Sunrise

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Chris and I celebrated our 21st anniversary on August 3rd.  It is always so hot in August, and we are not fans of heat and humidity.  Why did we pick August to get married, we ask ourselves?  Last year we celebrated our 20th on the hottest day of the entire year!  This year we decided to wait until October.  God provided a beautiful beach getaway at Ocean City, Maryland, and it was lovely!!

I have only been to the beach a handful of times in my life.  Florida when I was a preschooler.  Ocean City, New Jersey when I was in Elementary School.  The beautiful white sand beaches of Belize after I graduated from High School.  Brigantine Island for our honey moon.  Duck, North Carolina with the family 6 years ago.  This time I think I really understood why people return again and again.

First we decided to walk on the beach and then the boardwalk to see what we could see.  We ended up walking 68 blocks that day and night, because we didn’t know much about Ocean City.

Finally we found a beautiful restaurant with great Italian food.  We could sit outside and watch the full moon rise over the ocean.  My first moon rise over the ocean!

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The next day we decided to drive rather than walk.  We drove to the very end of the board walk which was the most exciting part.

 

We saw lots of little shops.  We saw hundreds of fancy cars in a car show.  Chris got some Boardwalk fries and frozen custard.  We went to the Life Saving Station Museum.  It was amazing to learn about the men who would patrol the beaches at night, looking for ships in distress.  The accounts of rescues touched me deeply.  The men would risk their own lives, work for hours in freezing temperatures and horrible weather, and think of nothing else except the person they were trying to save.

“That is like you, Jesus.” I prayed. “Give me your heart for your people in distress.  But how do I save them if they don’t even know that they are dying?”

You don’t have to do my job.  You don’t have to save them, heal them, know everything about them, or make everything right for them.  Just love them and obey Me,” I heard Him answer.

Later we ate a delicious meal on our balcony overlooking the bay.  Then we walked on the bay as the sun began to set.

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It was my first sunset on the bay…

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Night falls.

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The next morning we woke up early and walked to the beach one last time.  The sun was about to rise.

I was surprised by all the other people gathered, watching the horizon.

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There is the first bit of sun peeking over the ocean!  My first sunrise on the beach.  We watched as it rose quickly into the sky.

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We shared the beach with the trucks and the morning fishermen.

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And a woman doing acrobatics.

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And two pelicans.

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I could feel His presence in the wind that carried the birds.  As we walked along the edge of the water, I could hear God’s voice in the waves.  They were unrelenting and drowning out all other sounds.  I can see why people love it here.  Away from the rest of the world.  Encounters with God come loud and clear.

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I am struck by how God reveals himself in His creation.  He is like the ocean.  Unpredictable.  Just when you think you have figured out where to walk to just get your feet wet, a large wave comes and gives you more seawater than you had bargained for. Uncontrollable.  The waves push and pull and can’t be stopped.

Unimaginably beautiful.

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

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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.

young Maleficent

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.

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             “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.

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Sunrise

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“Yes, the day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good I promised them.”  Jer33:14(Living Bible)

 

I was reading this during my morning quiet time.  I got up from the kitchen table to walk my husband to his car as he was leaving for work.  I lingered outside to watch the beautiful sunrise.  I was struck by the faithfulness of God in causing the sun to rise each morning.  No matter how badly I had lived yesterday, no matter how much sin had occurred in the earth the day before, today the sun was rising on humanity again.  Along with the sun came God’s promise of his new mercies.  What a good God we have!

I sat down and continued to read in my Bible.

” If you can break my covenant with the day and with the night so that day and night don’t come on their usual schedule, only then will my covenant with David, my servant be broken…” V.20,21

Then I heard God say, “Anne, if you are able to keep the sun from rising this morning, then you will be able to mess up badly enough to break my promises to you.”

Sometimes I believe the lie that I will disqualify myself from receiving God’s promises.  But God reminds me that it was He who made the covenant in the first place.  He cannot lie, and He knows all things.  He already took my weaknesses and mistakes into account when He made those promises.  So I can rest in the knowledge that it is God’s job to bring His words to come to pass, and it is my job to simply believe.

 

Lord, help me to rest in your faithfulness.

In Honor of Spring, New Life, and a Baby Girl

I know we are still having winter weather, but I just can’t stop day dreaming about flowers, warm breezes, Easter, and a baby girl to be born in April!

So I think it is about time that I brightened up my blog a bit and post a story about new beginnings.

 

“The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins, he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord,” Isaiah 51:3

 

It was the early spring of 2008, and I was surveying my new yard.  Our family of eight had moved into this beautiful, older home in the fall.  However, the yard hadn’t been touched in years and was overgrown.  My husband, Chris, had just finished a week of “vacation” spent clearing bushes and brush from our corner lot.  I was amazed at how much he had accomplished.  Still, I lamented over the barren patches of earth the roots had left behind.  I despised the remaining scrubby bushes that Chris didn’t have time to dig out.

“How I wish he could have finished the job!  How I long to see grass growing and flowers blooming!  One of my favorite signs of spring is the delicious smell of lilacs in air.  Lord, how can I get a hold of a lilac bush and get rid of these awful ones?”

Days passed, leaves came forth in the warm sunlight, and I surveyed my yard again.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  Two of the ugly eyesores had been transformed into lilac bushes!  The tiny lavender buds held the promise of that glorious scent.

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“Thank you God that Chris wasn’t overzealous in his yard work after all!”  I prayed with overwhelming gratitude.  God answered in his gentle way.

“You wish that I would remove all the ugly parts of your life.  You even blame yourself that they still remain.  But you don’t judge as I judge.  Under your barren ground there are seeds that will grow!  I have allowed the “thorns” in your life to remain because I know that when the spring season comes, they will bloom and blossom.  Then you will realize that the blessings you had prayed for have been with you all the while in disguise…as a trial.”

 

God, help me to see my life as you do, full of you promise and potential.

 

Happy Heavenly Birthday Dad!

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My Father, George Redman Beyer, passed away last year on July 31.  In honor of him, I would like to post here the words I spoke at his memorial service.

 

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All you who knew George, whether it was for 5 minutes or fifty years, knew that he was very kind, calm, patient, slow, methodical, and very intelligent.

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He loved history and could remember facts and figures with an almost photographic memory.  Most of those official blue and yellow signs you see around the state of PA were written by my Dad.  When I was little I couldn’t remember the name of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, so I just told people that my Dad was a Historical Marker Maker.  They gave me funny looks.

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I got even stranger reactions when I told them that we were Quakers and went to Meeting instead of Church.  Dad was always a man of peace.  I almost never heard him criticize other people and I almost never saw him get angry.

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In recent years, he had to bear with my five wild boys running around the house with nerf guns, squirt guns, and cap guns.  Still he was very patient with them.  He spent hour after hour after hour reading to all the grandchildren, snuggling on the sofa.

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He answered question after question, read book after book.  He rejoiced at the birth of every new grandchild and enjoyed them immensely.

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This was an intense week for our family.  Dad was sent to the emergency room on Monday with blood clots in his lungs.  He stopped breathing and received CPR three times.  When I saw him that evening, he was unconscious and the hospital was still trying to stabilize him.  That night I prayed those deep, desperate prayers.  I love it how God draws so near to me in times like these.  I felt like He said to me, “This will end in death, but it is OK.”  Then I saw a picture in my mind.  I saw my dad as a young boy, running in the summer twilight.

scan23He had perfect shalom, “perfect peace, nothing broken, and nothing missing.”  He was running into the arms of God the Father.  They both had such joy and excitement about being together.

On Tuesday the hospital thought they might be able to stabilize Dad and wake him up.  Then we received a call that he had taken a turn for the worse, and we better get in there as soon as we could.  Again I began praying in the car, and I was desperate with God.  I said, “You can’t let him die if he’s not ready, if it is not his time.  I haven’t done enough. I haven’t told him enough about you.  I haven’t shown him enough love.”  Again the sweet presence of God surrounded me and said, “It is already done.  I have already done it all.  All that is left is to trust me.

So as we sat in Dad’s room watching him peacefully pass away, I again thought of him running into the arms of his Father.  I heard the Father God say to him, “George, it doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do in your lifetime.  I want you! You are my reward; You are my pearl of great price.”

Mom told me in hospital that Dad had recently attended a conference at Life Center and loved the Song, “Abba” which means Daddy. (Click here to listen to the wonderful song.) We sang that song in Worship tonight.  This confirmed to me that he had a longing in his heart to know God as his Daddy, and now his heart’s desire is fulfilled.  He feels for the first time the full strength of the unconditional, all consuming love of the Father.  Dad had loving parents and a loving family.  Loving relationships are the joy of this life.  But they are just the first morning rays of sunlight peaking over the horizon.  Now he is standing in the brightness of noonday, and I am so happy for him!

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I love how God gives us signs to explain what is happening in the unseen realm.  He gave me a sign.  My mom had transplanted lot of flowers from her yard to into my yard.  The irises and hyacinths have been blooming for many years now, but I have never seen the resurrection lily.  I just thought it had died, and I had forgotten about it.  But the day after my Dad died, I looked out my window and I saw it blooming!

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I love you Dad!

God Needs Me?

“He can do all things without us, but He had chosen to do them through us.” – The Call by Rick Joyner

I was pregnant with baby number eight.  It had been three years since my last pregnancy, and I felt the strongest, the healthiest, the most alive I had ever felt!  That was…until the morning sickness settled in.  It was actually “all day but much worse in the evening sickness”.  I had not felt horribly nauseous during my previous pregnancies, more like continuous car sickness.  How I had wished I could stop the invisible car and just get out!  I was optimistic that this pregnancy would be the exception, that I could say with a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye, “I love being pregnant!”

Just the opposite had happened.  I had never felt so bad!  My days consisted of sitting on the sofa with my eyes closed, trying to feel better.  My children ran around unattended.  Home school, which we should have started a month ago, remained untouched.  My older children did all the chores around the house and kept it running, though not as orderly or smoothly as I would have.  My precious firstborn girl, Areli, carried an enormous burden.  She heard my pitiful pleas all day long.

“Areli, could you make me some eggs?”

“Areli, could you fill up my water glass?”

“Areli, could you see who is crying upstairs, please?”

I tried to be a good mom; but mostly I whined, moaned, slept, felt sick, got sick, and slept some more.  I felt useless and wretched.  I knew theoretically that despite the weakened state of my body, my spirit could still soar high above my circumstances, like an eagle above the clouds.  Yet, after days, weeks, and months of feeling crummy, my eagle had forgotten how to fly.  My mind kept thinking about scriptures such as

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” 2 Cor 4:17

I knew that it was true, but it didn’t help me feel any better.

I thought about my joy in a newborn baby and how it was all worth it.

But it didn’t make me feel any better.

I reread every “Above Rubies” magazines I had ever received to encourage myself.

My mind was encouraged but my flesh still felt miserable!

My body felt like it was not capable to getting up off the sofa and doing anything productive or enjoyable, yet my mind continued to churn, swirling in descending circles.

“I just want to die.  I can’t live like this.  Why do I have to suffer?  Why does God allow me to feel so horrible?”

Pregnancy is such a miracle, a blessing, a gift!  So why did I feel so bad?  My suffering was nothing compared to other women I knew, who kept almost nothing down for nine months, yet my suffering felt like too much for me to bear.

The question I kept asking was, “Is this worth it?” and I knew that it was.  A new life is always worth it.  After a mother is holding that precious bundle, her sorrow is turned into joy.

Then the question became, “How much is a human life worth?  How much pain and sorrow is one life worth?  How much would I suffer for one human life?  Would I get pregnant and do this all again for one more human life?  How much is a life worth to God?  How much suffering did Jesus endure?”

The only conclusion I could come to was this; one human life is worth IT ALL!  There is no limit to the value God puts on a life, no price too high to pay, no suffering too severe.  Jesus suffered more than any of us.  He went through betrayal, slander, hatred, lies, scourging, mocking, and the cruelest execution ever conceived.  He felt the wretched, incurable sickness of the evil of the entire world. And he bore the effects of that twisted iniquity; separation with all that is good and beautiful and holy, his Father.

He said that his suffering was worth it because of the joy set before him. (Hebrews 12:2) That joy was human life, redeemed and set free.  He said that I am worth it.  He said that you are worth it.  He said that the child in my womb was worth it.  If Jesus was willing to suffer for my child, shouldn’t I?  After the suffering of His soul, he saw the light of life (my life, your life, my child’s life) and he was satisfied. (Isaiah 53:11)

I knew that my suffering wasn’t in vain, but I still didn’t feel any better.

“God, give me a vision of this child!  Something to keep me going,” I prayed.

In my mind’s eye I saw beams of life coming from this child and shooting out to the far reaches of the earth.  This child would be a blessing to me and my family, yes.  But he would also have an impact on the entire world!  How?  I have no idea!  But if I could have some small part in sending life to the whole of mankind, sign me up!

Then I heard God’s loving voice.

“Thank you for being available.  Without you, I couldn’t bring this child of destiny into the world.”

Then I felt the peace that only God’s voice can bring.  I felt His gratitude sink deep into my soul until I was saturated by the unbelievable goodness of it. God needs me?  The all powerful God NEEDS ME to be available?  What if I had said that seven children were quite enough, and that there were too many children in the world already?  THIS particular child, with unique DNA from his father and from me that could never be duplicated, would have never existed!  His very individual purpose and destiny would have never been manifested.  His precious personality, which was a dream in God’s heart since before the world began (Ephesians 1:4), would have never been realized.  And now he exists…because of me!  I cannot think of anything more powerful.  I cannot think of any higher honor for God to give me, than helping Him to create something of inestimable value and eternal impact.

I never could say during that pregnancy that I enjoyed being pregnant.  But I could say that pregnancy was when I relied on God the most and sensed His presence the closest and felt His glory the heaviest.  And the moment that precious Babe was born…I could say…

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HE WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT!