Saturday, September 11, 2010

What's Love Got to Do with It?

Not too long ago I heard the elderly and well-known prophet, Bob Jones, tell of a time in his life when he actually died and was allowed to see a glimpse of heaven. After waiting his turn, he found himself before Jesus who asked him this question, "Did you learn to love?"

Life is a lot of things, but more and more I'm seeing that it is mostly about learning to love. Our pop culture has so cheapened the meaning of love with songs that contain confusing lyrics like found in Tina Turner's song "What's Love Got to Do with It?"

The journey to love is one that each one of us must travel and the bends and turns in the road are as different as the people who travel on them. But some things remain the same, and that is that a heart that can respond with love is a whole and healthy heart, and a heart that can't needs the healing touch of our loving Papa God.

So, how do you know if your heart is healthy? When you find yourself reacting to people instead of responding to people, you know you may need a heart check-up. Reacting usually looks like that list of behaviors you find in the New Testament where Paul is telling you what you shouldn't be doing. Galations 5:19 has such a list,..."idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like."

Responding to situations and people calls for us to draw from that deep place within called our "spirit". Gal. 5: 16 says, "Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature". When we take time to "respond" instead of "react" we draw from our spirit which has been renewed and is inhabited by the Holy Spirit who always produces fruit. We know we are responding from our spirit when what flows out from us is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.....the fruit of the Spirit.

Another sign that love has become difficult because of a wounded and hurting heart, is that you find it very difficult to trust. In Tina Turner's song "What's Love got to Do with It?", the following lyrics portray very well where a hurting heart is headed:

I've been taking on a new direction
But I have to say
I've been thinking about my own protection
It scares me to feel this way

What's love got to do, got to do with it
What's love but a sweet old fashioned notion
What's love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken

When we cease to trust in relationships it is like we have set aside a portion of our heart and put up a "No Trespassing" sign. We adopt a "wait and see" attitude. The problem with this is that a heart that isn't fully engaged is always attached to a lonely and isolated person who longs for intimacy but never can seem to find it. They may present a "portion" of themselves and on the surface it can look pretty good. But, a closer look leaves you with the feeling that they're not all there.....and they're not. A "halfhearted" way of living is where many people find themselves because their wounded hearts fear the risk of trying to love and be loved again.

I am convinced that it is very difficult for an unhealthy heart to truly love. The person may try, but again and again will experience frustration through repeated episodes of failure to love.

So, what is the journey to a healthy heart? I believe it begins with forgiveness. Forgiveness first of all for yourself, and then forgiveness for others. Unforgiveness binds us and ultimately puts us in a place of torment. As we receive the Father's forgiveness, love, and grace for our sinful patterns, we experience a lightness and freedom that is liberating.

Sometimes the difficult work is forgiving those offenses against us, especially those of abuse and violence. We need to understand the high price we are paying if we hold on to unforgiveness against those who have hurt us. Many are trapped in mental anguish, physical infirmities and dysfunctional relationship skills because of their refusal or unawareness of the necessity of forgiveness. Many will live in denial for years, stubbornly refusing to face the humbling truth, and all the while they leave a wake of destruction to those in their path as well as to themselves.

The process of forgiveness may be simple for some and complex for others. Father may reveal layers of pain/unforgiveness patterns going back to childhood. But, in order to be fully free, the work must be done and the more thoroughly, the better. As you begin to forgive and taste the sweetness of being "out of prison", you will long for more freedom and the process gains momentum.

Another step in the journey to a healthy heart is learning to trust again. Actually, you begin to learn to trust again the moment you are willing to forgive. But, Jesus is calling us to a deeper place in this thing called love. The difficult person to love may be trapped in a cycle that is offensive and we are presented with a choice. Will we love? How will we love?

We, of course, cannot love the sin, and I am not suggesting that a person stay in a place of emotional or spiritual abuse, but I am suggesting that sometimes we are asked to be courageous enough to break our destructive "reactive" cycle by first forgiving and then beginning to love the offensive person by coming to see how Father sees them. Can we be unselfish enough to look past our own brokenness to see theirs? Can we give our whole heart to come into agreement with what Father intended for them to become? Can we join with Him in calling out the treasure? Can our heart be healthy enough to respond and not react to their sin?

When we begin to partner with the heart of God for the other person I believe a shift takes place in the atmosphere. Instead of perpetually stating the obvious and spotlighting their sin, we begin to hear from our spirit and state something entirely different. Love "always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres." This is love by a different definition. This is I Corinthians 13 love.

And love must walk hand in hand with trust. Not trust in ourselves, or in the other person, but trust in God who is big enough to change all of our hearts.

So, in answer to Tina's haunting question, "What's love got to do with it?", the answer is everything. Absolutely everything.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Who Do You Say that I Am?

Father continues to teach me about the importance of what I speak and think. Early on in this journey of "cleaning up" my confessions, I soon found out that just changing what I say is not enough, for "it is of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks". I find myself continually being challenged now on what I think and even deeper, what I believe.

It was just today that I was praying about a matter that in my heart felt 'hopeless'. In the midst of my thoughts I heard Father say to me, "Who do you say that I am?" I knew instantly that He was not asking me so that I could recite information back to Him, and He was not having an identity crisis, but He was asking, "who do you believe Me to be in your circumstance?"

I love the story of Moses and the burning bush. Besides the fact that it's pretty darn freaky, the story is rich with truth that spurred a stuttering Moses to lead the massive exodus of the Israelites out of slavery. After Moses is given his commission from God, who appears as flames in a burning bush, he timidly asks, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you' and they ask me, 'What is His name?' Then what shall I tell them?"

God's answer to Moses is stunning. He says, "Say to them, 'I Am that I Am'. This little Hebrew phrase, "Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh" though surprisingly simple has challenged Hebrew scholars for decades. Some, but not all, of the possibilities include:

I am that I am (Hertz, p 215)

I will be what I will be (Rashi, from Hertz, p 215)

I am who I am (Sarna, 1986, p 52)

I will be what I want to be (S.R. Hirsch from Plaut, p 405)

I will be what tomorrow demands (Plaut, p 405)

It has been noted that Moses never used the name that was given to him by the burning bush. Though Moses inquired of God's name so that he might have something to tell the inquisitive Israelites, I believe that his asking was mostly for himself. Moses needed an anchor for his faith and he got the anchor of all anchors.
Father continues to teach me about the importance of what I speak and think. Early on in this journey of "cleaning up" my confessions, I soon found out that just changing what I say is not enough, for "it is of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks".  I find myself continually being challenged now on what I think and even deeper, what I believe.

It was just today that I was praying about a matter that in my heart felt 'hopeless'. In the midst of my thoughts I heard Father say to me, "Who do you say that I am?" I knew instantly that He was not asking me so that I could recite information back to Him, and He was not having an identity crisis, but He was asking, "who do you believe Me to be in your circumstance?"  
I love the story of Moses and the burning bush. Besides the fact that it's pretty darn freaky, the story is rich with truth that spurred a stuttering Moses to lead the massive exodus of the Israelites out of slavery. After Moses is given his commission from God, who appears as flames in a burning bush, he timidly asks, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you' and they ask me, 'What is His name?' Then what shall I tell them?"

God's answer to Moses is stunning. He says, "Say to them, 'I Am that I Am'. This little Hebrew phrase, "Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh" though surprisingly simple has challenged Hebrew scholars for decades. Some, but not all, of the possibilities include:

I am that I am (Hertz, p 215)

I will be what I will be (Rashi, from Hertz, p 215)

I am who I am (Sarna, 1986, p 52)

I will be what I want to be (S.R. Hirsch from Plaut, p 405)

I will be what tomorrow demands (Plaut, p 405) 

It has been noted that Moses never used the name that was given to him by the burning bush. Though Moses inquired of God's name so that he might have something to tell the inquisitive Israelites, I believe that his asking was mostly for himself. Moses needed an anchor for his faith and he got the anchor of all anchors.

I love the translation above by Plaut that says, "I will be what tomorrow demands". Isn't that really what Moses needed to hear? I Am that I Am. I will be All that you need. I Am All sufficient for every problem that you could imagine. I Am the Author and Finisher. I am the Alpha and Omega. I Am that I Am.

So Moses left the flaming foliage armed with all He needed to rally the skeptical Israelites, confront the intimidating Pharoah, and probably most of all, steady the faith of the one he saw daily in his own mirror. Moses had received a name. Not just any name, mind you.  The Name.

So, going back to the question that Father posed to me today, "Who do you say that I Am?", I find my faith buoyed by the shoeless Moses and his encounter with a burning bush. Having read the story, we know that God was there for Moses every step of the journey. He equipped him, empowered him, and met Him in incredibly intimate ways, and I know He will do the same for me.

Bottom line for me is that it's personal. At least I believe it is to Him.  My negative thinking in any area or lack of faith always points to a problem in my belief about Him. Do I really believe He is who He says He is? Can He really do what He says He can do?

Who do you say that I am?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mama's Books

It's funny the things you remember. As we sorted through my Mama's diverse library following her passing, I was surprised at how attached my emotions were to books. As I handled the well worn pages of book after book, I found it almost impossible to part with some of these old friends. In fact I carefully tucked the tattered copy of Uncle Remus along with several others in my box of things that I 'just couldn't part with'. One look at this book and I am launched back into another time and place.

I mostly remember Uncle Remus from a habit my Mama developed on warm summer days when the afternoon thunderstorms rolled over the Blue Ridge mountains and threatened us with ferocious displays of wind and light. My Mama, terrified of thunderstorms, would gather my brother and myself and run for the innermost bedroom of our Carolina home. It was then that she would pull out Uncle Remus or some other delightful world of fantasy and began to read in her deep melodious southern voice. As the lightening popped and the thunder roared, we soon found ourselves laughing at the antics of Brer Fox, Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. Laughing so hard she could hardly read, Mama soon forgot the perilous winds that howled just outside our doors and so did we. In fact, I came to love the sound of thunder in the distance, knowing what fun lay in store for us should the storm head in our direction.

My Mama had a gift. I don't think she was really aware of it, but when she began to read out loud, she would enter the 'make believe' world of the story she was reading and take you with her. A teacher for some thirty years, it was not uncommon for former students to approach us in stores or restaurants and the story would often be the same, "You were my favorite teacher" and "I loved how you always read to us on rainy days and after lunch". Her contagious love of books transferred to the many lives she touched.

When I think of my childhood, books were a big part of my relationship with my Mama. At the earliest age we made trips together to the little village library and sometimes spent several hours pouring over the books. I can picture it well, and can still hear the sound of the screen door slamming each time someone entered. I remember the delicious smell of the pages of the books and the skillful hands of the librarian as she methodically stamped the books. I secretly longed to have one of those "stampers" myself.

It was there that Mama introduced me to some of my childhood favorites, The Secret Garden, Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, and The Boxcar Children. Armed with a stack of books almost as big as the little girl who carried them, we would leave our little library full of anticipation and wonder at what new adventures lay ahead. What a deep satisfaction she must have felt that I loved these books just as much as she.

Of course, the book she loved most of all was the Bible. A lifelong student of the Word, she never stopped learning and studying with youthful enthusiasm and interest. It was with a little New Testament that she knelt down beside my bed on a Saturday evening when I was just 8 years old. I was to be baptized the next day and she wanted to make completely sure that I knew what I was doing. So while my brother slept in a nearby bed, my Mama whispered me through the plan of salvation. I was baptized the next day, and so began the journey that continues to this day.

During her last few weeks of life, she didn't feel much like reading, which said a whole lot about just how bad she felt. But her Bible was still among the few things on her bedside table, and as she called out favorite passages I would turn to them and read. Just one day before she passed away we read together Psalm 23,..."though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil". I'm not sure who received the most comfort from those words, for I was walking through that valley with her.

I'm so glad I got a chance to sort through the books, and especially glad that I got to take some of the ones that are filled with memories. Next time there's a good thunderstorm, I may just pull out good old Uncle Remus.

I know that Jesus talks about 'going to prepare a place for us' and He even mentions the 'mansions' in His Father's house. I have a good feeling about the place that He prepared for Mama, and I won't be surprised at all if it's filled with books.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Reality Training

I recently came in the room to find my husband watching "Rocky" on TV. We couldn't help but laugh together at this over-the-top 'testosterone laden' creation by Sylvester Stallone that first aired in 1976. It is hard not to get caught up in this 'underdog makes it big' film and like everyone else, I was ready to down a few raw eggs as the theme from Rocky starts to play and the Italian Stallion courageously goes into his season of training.

I couldn't help but think how different it is for us as believers as we enter our seasons of training. There usually is no motivational music playing and it would seem no one to cheer us on in our preparation. But, Holy Spirit is a great cheerleader and never tires or gives up on urging us toward maturity. In fact, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit orchestrate many of our battles so we can try out our skill at using the weapons He has given us.

This is a really different thought for me. In the past I never related much to the "warrior" terminology and usually ran from anything looking like a fight. But we are told to "fight the good fight of faith".

After a while it becomes obvious that God seems to like using "battle" terminology and it becomes even more obvious that the battle is real. As children we could call "time out" if we became tired of the game or found ourselves on the losing side, but there is no "time out" in real life.

Thankfully, Father left us anything but defenseless, and much of life is about discovering who we are and discovering our weapons and learning to use them. Many times we find ourselves pushed back into the "game" before we feel ready, but it is in the struggle that we find that Father has been training us all along for the battle in which we find ourselves.

Like Neo in "The Matrix", as we learn and grow in our true identity, our confidence grows to pick up our weapons and skillfully use them to execute vengeance on the enemies of the Kingdom of God. Romans 8:19 says "the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed". Later in vs. 22 it says that "the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth...."

All of this waiting, expectation, and groaning is calling up something deep within us as the sons and daughters of God. As deep cries out to deep, we find ourselves awakening to the glory that Father placed within each one of us. Before our rebirth we had 'fallen short of the glory', but since we have been made 'new creations' the glory has been restored to those who are in Christ. We have been made in the image of the Glorious One.

We are also finding that the battle is very different than we first believed and is more about being than doing, and more about knowing than learning. The weapons we have been given many times seem foolish at first glance, and it is the childlike and humble of heart who will learn to use them. The sword in our hand is much lighter than we thought and rises and falls as it is carried by the very breath of Holy Spirit. Our mouths are called to decree, agree, shout, proclaim, or laugh in sync with Him. Our feet have learned to dance on injustice, release joy into the atmosphere, or bring the Gospel of peace.

Again in "The Matrix", Neo was offered two pills. The blue pill would allow him to stay in his comfort zone and a blissful ignorance to accept the reality that he saw all around him. The red pill would lead him into truth and a reality that would require risk and the ability to operate in a realm not yet known to him. We are very much like Neo, and faced with a choice to accept this natural realm as our reality, or see with our eyes of faith the reality of the Kingdom of God all around us and in us. Our training is really "reality training" as we learn to see, sense, perceive, and hear from a different realm. We have been invited into an adventure of epic porportions. As the writer of Psalms 149 so aptly describes it, "this is the glory of all His saints".

"The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is', or 'There it is', because the Kingdom of God is within you."
Luke 17:20-21

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Soul vs Spirit

Our walk here is, and always will be, a "faith" walk, because there is an unseen realm that eludes our earthly senses. I used to cry over the verse that says "without faith it is impossible to please Him". I found faith so hard, yet I wanted so badly to please Him. Actually my soul (mind, will, and emotions) found faith hard, but my spirit was ready when I began to get those other three characters in line! Our soul never likes learning to walk by will cry, get angry, feel sorry for itself, and demand it's own way when allowed to run things.

Learning to live from our spirit and not our soul is key in this adventure of faith. We all have days where we fall back into soulish thinking and actions, seeing things through this earthly realm grid. But as believers, we are called to learn to use our spirit muscles and see things through a realm not of this earth......His realm! And just like when we go to the gym to work out any other muscle, it takes time, and sometimes seems a slow process. But, little by little, as we learn to live from our spirit and not our soul, we begin to notice a difference in our lives.

I know now that when I'm feeling hopeless, I am believing lies and living from my soul. I'm evaluating my reality from my mind(what I think), my will(what I decide) and my emotions(what I feel). I've had some real battles over this one, but I'm learning that when those kind of thoughts knock on the door, I am to make my soul subject to my spirit and choose to believe what the Father says and not what my circumstance is saying. He is the God of the impossible and we are called to dwell in that realm with Him. Francis Frangipane says that if there is an area of our life that does not glisten with hope, then we are believing a lie.

I had to get rid of a number of lies in my own life that were preventing me from living by faith. When truth is revealed to us through revelation, then the lies have to leave. That's why revelation is so important. Jesus said that "man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God". The revealed word or truth is our very life. It's what sustains us and gives us the ability to rise above our circumstances.

When Jesus was confronted by Satan in the wilderness and tempted, He overcame Him by reaching within His spirit and speaking forth the revelation that was given to Him by the Holy Spirit(the revealed word) and we are called to do the same. Satan sought to tempt Jesus in His soul, but Jesus overcame Him by the Spirit.  If in the middle of our own confrontations, we will stop and listen to our spirit that is inhabited by the Holy Spirit, and learn to refuse the clamoring voice of our soul, we will begin to experience such wonderful things as peace, joy, love, patience and all the rest of the fruit of the Spirit.

I've learned that responding to the Spirit requires using my "faith muscles" and isn't usually the easiest choice. It involves a rising up and a taking hold of His strength and presence. Responding to my soul usually feels good to my flesh and doesn't require anything of me. It involves a falling back and a letting go of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:5 & 6 says, "those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace." We can quickly tell when our choices are producing life or death by the fruit that results.

I'm so glad that we have received the Spirit of sonship that allows us to cry, "Abba, Father". We can rejoice that the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are His children. And it is in this place of our spirit, where the precious Spirit of God dwells, that we can find the strength that we need to overcome the obstacle of our own soul and other weapons used against us.

Paul's words in 2 Cor. 4:16-18 give us a valuable perspective and stance for the journey ahead:

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Upward and Onward!

I love that the Kingdom is all about transformation. Everything about the Kingdom is a forward progression. That is why the enemy fights so hard to cause us to step down, fall back, or give up.

Paul tells us in 2 Cor.3:18 that we "are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory". Pause and think about the ramifications of this promise. It's not just that we are being transformed into His likeness, but it is with ever-increasing glory. Wow! We have a promise of accelerated glory coming into our lives as we are transformed.

I have been aware of an accelerated growth process in my own life and many other believers around me in the last 5 years. The ever-increasing glory is evident all around us!

Part of the ever-increasing glory process is being tested in those areas where we have experienced grace and transformation in our thinking and lives. Graham Cooke says that "we must know the difference between our training ground and our proving ground". I recently experienced proving in some areas that had always been areas of weakness for me. There was much fear, shame, and doubt attached to these former patterns. I went into the battle with shaky footing, afraid that I would fail as I had done in the past.

As I looked around for the weapons that He had given me in my season of training, I found that He had taught me first of all about His goodness. This for me is the operations base for my battles. It is the foundation of everything....He is a good God! All of our thinking, plans, and battle strategies must flow out of this foundational fact. I believe it is the area that Satan attacks more than any other, because he gains an incredible foothold when we began to doubt God's goodness. Our faith flows out of knowing that He is good.

The second weapon that I had received in training was learning that I am the King's daughter. I am a princess! Beginning to know and understand the vast implications of being royalty totally changes our mindset and the way we operate in our lives. The King's kids have unlimited access and authority that we have just begun to tap into. Again, Satan's strategy is to keep us from discovering who we are. He is a liar, and the Father of Lies, and we cannot believe anything he says.

The third weapon that I had been given in training is the power of declarations and the power of words. God created the world by speaking things into existence. We have been made in His image and our "speaking" is very powerful and important. The Father has been teaching me to become more and more aware of my confessions or words. God works through the power of agreement, and so does the enemy. We must be careful in how we agree with him. I am learning that my thoughts and words must line up with the truth of God's word and my revelation of Him, and not what I seem to be experiencing in my reality. His reality is always greater than my reality.I love it that He is a God who "calls things that are not as though they were", and again, being made in His image, we are to do the same.

So we see that the Kingdom is full of overcoming, being renewed, transformation, reconciliation, pressing on, not shrinking back....all forward motion! We do, however have to make a choice. We can choose to go back to the old familiar patterns of defeat. Many times they even feel more comfortable. There is no faith required. It's easier to slip into fear or self pity or worry when the crunch comes. Faith and forward motion in the Kingdom requires rising up in our spirit man and using our new found spiritual muscles. We can say, "No!" and whack fear, self pity, and worry on the head with the weapon of God's goodness and our declarations of His favor and protection in our life.

As we are changed in "ever-increasing glory" the using of our weapons will become second nature. Actually, it becomes our true nature which is sons and daughters of our victorious warrior King!

We will all experience days in which it seems that we lose our footing and fall in battle. The writer of Hebrews tells us that "we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved". Gratefully, we have a compassionate Savior King who comes and picks us up, and brushes off our knees, straightens the crown He has placed on our head, and again reminds us of who we are and what we're made for, and off we go again ready to experience the sweetness and satisfaction of victory over our enemies.

"Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.
May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in
their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the
peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles
of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them. This is the
glory of all His saints." Psalms 149:5-9

Monday, April 19, 2010

Living in a Legacy

I have the privilege of sitting with my Mom in the hospital as she enters her third battle with cancer, now at 82 years old. I consider it a privilege, because it is a an unexpected opportunity to serve the one who has given of herself so sacrificially in my life and the lives of many others.

The older I get the more I see the legacy that she has created and left for me and my family. A mother does so many things, but more than anything else, she imparts herself to her children. This can be good or bad, but, in my case it is very, very good. Now at 54 years of age, I still find myself in many ways, seeking to emulate her strength of character, her generous spirit, her unselfish nature, and her kindness that she shares with everyone. I never knew anything but total acceptance, love, and support from my mother. I understand that I have been given a great gift.

As I have watched my mother interact with the staff of nurses in this small town hospital, I began to notice that she takes time to find out their name and then encourages them every time they leave her room by telling them what a good job they are doing. She hesitates to push the button to call for a nurse when she needs pain medication because she "doesn't want to be a bother". It doesn't surprise me that many of them stop by her room to tell her "good-bye" when they are leaving from their shift.

Just last night her surgeon called the hospital room to talk with me and he started off by saying,"your mother is an amazing woman". He then went on to tell me of her intelligence, her cheerfulness, and the grace and strength that he saw in her. These would be wonderful qualities for any person to exhibit, but it is especially beautiful to watch this fruit flowing from the weakened and battered body of the woman I call Mother.

Yes I, my children, and one day their children, are all living in the wake of my Mother's legacy. We've all inherited so much from this life well lived. I am grateful and humbled that I have this chance to serve and honor my Mother. Now every day is a precious gift.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jesus Loves Me This I Know

Like many of you, I grew up singing the popular childrens song, "Jesus Loves Me". Even though I sang the sung hundreds of times, somehow the words never made it from my head to my heart.

But, over the last 15 years, Jesus began to romance me and soften this heart of mine that had not known or understood what it really felt like to be loved by Him. The truth is, He was probably romancing me long before this, but I was unaware of His moving in my life.

Just this past year I was at a womens day of meditative worship, and I received as a gift a small scroll tied with a gold bow. We were told that the messages on the scroll were prayed over by the ones who picked them, and to receive it as a message that Jesus had for us that day. As I unrolled my scroll, my eyes quickly took in the words, and I was undone. My scroll read:

"You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
You have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace". Song of Songs 4:9

Trying to keep it together as best I could, I quickly found a spot in the corner of the room and for the next hour I let the tears flow as the realization of His heart and intense love for me washed over me like a warm spring rain.

You see, one of the earliest wounds that the enemy inflicted on me was that of not being pursued or not being chosen. Then, over the years, he kept reinforcing the lie through people and circumstances.

In my relationship with Jesus, my theology taught me that He was the one who sought me, but my heart always felt like I was the one who had pursued Him. Because of my woundedness and unbelief in this area, there was a veil over my heart that kept me from experiencing and receiving His love.

But little by little, His jealous love for me began to break through the protective covering around my heart. As my heart began to open enough to let Him in, I began to experience even more His personal, intimate ways of pursuing and revealing His love for me.

I love the words to "How He Loves" by John Mark McMillan:

"He is our portion and we are His prize,
drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we're all sinking.
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest..."

I don't know about you, but the thought that I am His prize is hard to wrap my mind around. But that day when I read the words on the scroll, "You have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes", I felt that I got a glimpse into the heart of Jesus, and I too, was drawn by the grace in His eyes. Wow! He loves me so much!

I love going into the day knowing that at any moment I could receive a "God kiss"! I don't believe He is stingy with His affection, but I believe that our hearts are often so steeped in hurt and unbelief that we fail to see or experience His attempts to touch us in a personal and loving way.

Thank you Jesus for your persistent, fierce, and lavish love! Thank You that You hold the keys to even the most resistant of hearts.

"Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
Rivers cannot wash it away.

-Song of Songs 8:6-7

Monday, February 22, 2010

Plumbing Matters

Recently I spent some time in South Carolina visiting my mother and enjoying the beauty of the Carolina mountains. One day as we were returning from a trip to my college alma mater in Boiling Springs, NC, I stopped the car for a much needed restroom break. As I headed for the restrooms in the convenience store where we had stopped, the clerk behind the counter quickly let me know that they had no water and their restrooms were not available for use. She said the pipes had burst.

I hopped back in the car and continued to travel down the road. About a half mile from the convenience store we passed a home with an unusual sign in the yard that said, "plumbing matters". I laughed to myself and said "Yes, it surely does!" As I began to think about this funny turn of events and the unusual sign that I had just seen, I felt the Holy Spirit began to speak to me and show me that the pipes burst because they were not able to contain the volume of the liquid as it expanded inside the pipes.

He then directed my thoughts to the passage of scripture in Matt. 9:16 which says,

"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch
will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men
pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the
wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No they pour new wine
into new wineskins, and both are preserved."

So, just as the pipes burst when they could no longer contain the volume of the frozen water, the wineskins will burst if new wine is poured into old wineskins.

Our unrenewed minds are like the wineskins and our old ways of thinking will not be able to contain the new things that God is wanting to do and release. Our minds must be renewed in order to contain the new wine that he is pouring out today, in this very hour.

An openness to receive new revelation and a heart that is quick to repent(change the way you think)are keys to having a new wineskin. God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble, and this humility opens the door for the new wine to flow in freely.

In Romans 12, Paul indicates that in order to know God's will our mind must be renewed. This renewing of the mind causes us literally to be transformed from the inside out. Yes, knowing and walking in God's will involves having a humble, childlike approach to receiving revelation and a heart that rushes to repent when we realize that our thoughts no longer line up with His. It is the renewed mind that will be able to test and approve the will of God.

I feel so very blessed to be alive in this day when God is uncovering mysteries and revelation that have been kept for us His Church, the Bride of Christ. As we walk in childlike wonder and humility, let us move forward as a mighty army, with an ever expanding capacity to receive Him and all that He is.

May our wineskins be ready to receive the new wine as He pours it out in our day. May we be free-flowing conduits or "pipes" that continually contain and release the very Presence of God.

Yes, plumbing matters.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Don't Be Like the Horse or Mule

In the early years of my Christian walk my spiritual history with God took a certain pattern. Crisis would come and I would press in to find Him. I would enjoy sweet times in His presence only to gradually give up my practice of seeking Him once the crisis had passed. I still served Him and loved Him, but let the cares and business of life steer me away from seeking His face. Then another crisis would come and my heart would turn once again to pursuing after the One who had proven Himself faithful in my life so many times.

One such crisis occurred when our son was hospitalized at just one year old. The doctors could not explain why he had such a high fever and had become quickly lethargic. A number of tests were run including a painful spinal tap and the fear of the unknown threatened to totally overwhelm the heart of this young mother. One night as I lay in his hospital room on a cot, listening to his labored breathing and unable to sleep, I picked up a book that I was reading and God pricked my heart and spoke to me concerning the shaky foundation that I had been building for my life.

The chapter talked about "sinkholes" and how in certain areas of our country there were homes built on ground that looked good for all practical purposes, but at any point the homes might suddenly collapse as the ground gave way underneath them. God showed me that my life was as precarious as those homes built on the "sinkholes" and the storms that came to threaten me had the power to cause my spiritual house to come crashing down. There on that cot in a dark hospital room, I tearfully repented of my wishy-washy relationship with Him.

Thankfully, our son improved and was able to leave the hospital a week later. I left that hospital with a determination to live my life in a different way than I had before that time. As a result of this hospital encounter with God, I began to seek to build a foundation for my life that would be unshakable.

It was not long after that I was reading in the Psalms one day and came across a passage which the Lord gently used to remind me of my new commitment:

"Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no
understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you". Psalm 32:9

He showed me that I had been like the horse or mule in my relationship with Him, and that He desired my heart to be so in sync with His that I would no longer need the bit or bridle(crisis) to control me. He was looking for a relationship with me that far surpassed the "fair-weather friend" that I had been for so many years.

Did God cause my son to become sick to teach me a lesson? No, I don't believe that God is ever the author of sickness because that is not part of who He is. I do believe however, that He was with me right in the midst of my crisis of faith, waiting to shepherd my heart into a higher place with Him.

Now, many years later, I am still grateful for that difficult lesson learned in the midst of adversity. I can honestly say that I love spending time with Him just as much when things are going well as when I am in the midst of crisis.

I am thankful that my loving heavenly Father loved me enough to correct my negligent attitudes and open for me a door into a lifetime of encounters with Him in the secret place. He is so good!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fashioning Arrows, pt. 1

I remember as a young seminary student sitting in a "future" minister's wives class taught by our Pastor's wife. This was a significant time in my life because God used this dear woman to plant some seeds of vision in my heart that grew to become a burning passion to have an exceptional marriage and children who would impact the Kingdom.

Over the years God continued to water those seeds and expand my understanding of His original intent in creating "family". In Genesis 1:28 it is clear that it was His desire that we partner together to subdue the earth and rule over it.

As a parent with two grown children, I will have to say that they are one of the greatest joys of my life. However, their greatest purpose is not just to be a joy to their parents, but to become powerful rulers and instruments of the Kingdom of God.

This may seem an unobtainable goal in the early years of parenting when changing diapers, middle of the night feedings, ear infections, and sleep deprivation are the order of the day.

Our focus can become just as impaired in later years as we join the merry-go-round of soccer games, carpool, piano lessons, and karate practice. Too often have young parents with the best of intentions, bought into the lie that their child must be an expert in every field. The pressure to compete and succeed becomes a driving force that is a poor substitute for some of the things that every child needs in the depths of their heart.

Having a Kingdom vision and purpose in parenting is essential to raise up and equip children who will learn to rule in their sphere of influence. Having this vision effects everything about how you parent and why you parent.

Children need to know and rest secure in their father and mother's love. They need to hear that they are special, unique and created with a purpose and destiny that a loving Heavenly Father ordained for them. After years of doing counseling and inner healing with individuals it has become obvious that one of Satan's greatest strategies, if not THE greatest strategy against us, is to try and keep us from finding out our true identity. Parents play a huge role in building a healthy foundation of identity in their children and pointing them to their Daddy God who will continue to speak words of identity and destiny into their hearts.

As parents we are to "train up a child in the way he (or she) should go". It is part of a parent's job to know their child and discern how they have been created and then to wisely point them in that direction and provide opportunities to see them grow into that calling.

Success in the world and success in the Kingdom will not always look the same. As a parent, your values will be reflected in the way that you parent. Prestige, wealth, and high-paying jobs are not wrong in themselves, but they become wrong when they are valued above the Kingdom. We are to 'Seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness'.

Psalm 127:4 likens children to "arrows in the hand of a warrior". Arrows have to be fashioned and the very nature of an arrow is that it be released. The releasing of the arrow comes after it has been honed and fashioned in such a way as to hit the target made for it.

As parents, we are 'arrow-makers', shaping, fashioning, and honing our children as arrows. There is no greater joy than partnering with the Godhead in fashioning your quiver full of arrows, then standing back one day to release those arrows, one by one into the Kingdom.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A "Doublemint" year!

I love the beginning of a new year! Every year around this time, I ask the Lord what He is saying for the new year. As I have waited and listened, the following words have been stirring in my spirit.

I enjoy the study of numbers and their meanings. The number 10 means “completeness of order, making the entire round of anything, or the whole cycle is complete.

One of the things that I sense the Lord saying to the Body of Christ for 2010 is that it will be a year to cycle out of old destructive patterns. It’s the time to finish the cycle. The grace to overcome and step on the head of the enemy on your way out of the cycle, will be available for those who will draw upon His empowering grace.

Others are in a cycle of pruning or training that has been orchestrated by the hand of the Lord. 2010 is a year that many will come full circle in their training and propelled forth into their purpose and destiny. As we have been in an accelerated pace the last few years, I believe this will continue as sons and daughters arise, clothed in their true identity and calling.

During the Christmas holidays our family was shopping at the Outlet Mall. Our daughter, Adrienne, was in a store by herself and called us on her cell phone. She excitedly conveyed a message that within a period of two or three minutes she had seen two sets of adult identical twins dressed exactly the same. One of the sets of twins were male, the other female. She said she had a sense that it was “the language of the Spirit” and that God was saying something. I jokingly said, “Maybe it’s going to be a year of double blessing!” A few days later, I read T. D. Jakes word saying that it would be a year of “double portion”.

I believe that God is jubilant in expressing to us that His abundant grace is available to us His children in unprecedented measures. Old mindsets that have believed that you will barely eke out a living or have just enough, must be replaced with a joyful expectation of the abundance and goodness of our Father’s heart towards us His children. Get ready for a “Doublemint” year!! That’s double the pleasure and double the fun!!

May you experience a year of double grace and double favor as you walk in the reality of our magnificent King and His Kingdom that the prophet Isaiah spoke about with these words, "Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end."

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is a work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen!
Ephesians 3:20