There in that place…

The days rush by, and I think about my grandnephew, whose days are unending, his nights just long enough to remember the tilled fields of spring followed by the green expanse of crops pulsating in summer’s breezes, broken only by the creek winding through our land connecting farm to farm where family wait for his return.

There in that place where even subtle sins are noted, he is lost amidst the many who are watched day and night yet never known beyond surveillance screens that reveal everything yet nothing of the boy he was when he became a man when he was barely more that just a boy.

Like any child who looks for love, he found it in the gentle words of his grandfather, who taught him how to put together and take apart the toys of boyhood one block at a time. And, as he grew older, he watched and learned under the gaze of his almost-dad, who was not there when the judge handed down the ruling that took him away from everything he loved.

He had looked for love so many times in the circle of other wounded children grown up, who saw each other through the glazed eyes of alcohol-induced laughter that hardly hid the pain that roiled deep inside. And the alcohol that took him away from the pain tore the best friend he had ever had from his days and his nights where now the constant glare of prison lights robbed him of the dreams he longed for.

He made himself remember the fresh smell of rain on tilled fields, the familiar aroma of oil and grease in his grandpa’s shop, the joyous atmosphere of family dinners and the sound of his mom’s laughter, the combine’s roar and the sound of the grain swirling up the auger to the bins. He thought of the clicking sounds Grandpa would make as they waited for their plates of BBQ to come at noon and the nudges in greeting from friends and farmers who filled the room from 12 to 1.

He remembered so much and then could take no more and waited in the still dorm as snoring ceased and breaths were held, as the dreaded prospect of one more endless day began.

O, Holy Father, just as Your Son burst forth from the grave, invade that stark place with the reality of Your Presence. Break into hearts and flood them with Your Perfect Love. Shatter the walls that conceal the men you created them to be, and destroy the plans of the enemy to steal, kill and destroy their very lives. Birth hope in jaded hearts this day, and set them aflame for You.

Silence…

Strangely silent
well, maybe not so strange
sometimes the heart has nowhere to go
nothing to say, except to Him
who always hears
but is silent
when silence must have its way.
How could months go by, I wonder,
months of silence recorded doggedly
through scores of mornings
when my sole desire was to sit at His feet
and listen.
Haltingly I ask for words to flow
from this heart ever changed
by His Words, His Voice
heard best in the silence.

It’s time…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people come into our lives, with many staying but most around only for perhaps a season or maybe two before moving on. People who we’ve worked with, gone to different churches with, who’ve been our neighbors at one time or maybe even close friends who, one day, are no longer in our sphere of influence.

When we’re really following Christ, which, for me means intentionally doing what I know He would do, do we pay attention to the moments God gives us each day to reach out physically to bless someone, even if it’s just to speak a word of encouragement? You know the ones I’m talking about–the ones we put on our prayer list and stand with in faith, believing for healed marriages, rescued children, restored health, and work opportunities. 

Most of the time we’re not there when the prayers are answered, but we continue to ask in faith, believing that God will finish the work He began. I like how Paul said it in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9: I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are fellow workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Am I doing my part, or am I so busy that opportunities to plant and water come and go without my notice? Seriously, am I really a fellow-worker in God’s service? Who is standing in my field? Who is there in my building? Who is God telling me to encourage? Don’t you think it’s time we paid attention? We have this day, this moment in time to make a difference. Will we?

Mourning thoughts…

Has anything changed in the last four years, I wonder, as I see the ‘Your Memories from Facebook’ post on my page. Yes, and no. It’s another beautiful morning, much like the one I wrote about some 1460 mornings ago…

I could not ask for a more lovely morning. Cool breezes, birds singing, stillness broken only by the distant strains of a train, the revving engine of a crop duster several farms over, and the gentle buzzing of the baby hummer filling up on sugar water. The current People’s Exchange and The Paper lay untouched beside me, but I restrain myself from planning my day, spurning pen and list for just a little longer.

I hear the mournful call of the dove and am reminded that half a world away, children are in peril because of the irrationality of men who think nothing of using the innocent as shields and for what? I want to be sick as I think of the children laid out in death for all the world to see like some insane punctuation mark on the unspeakable actions that put them in harm’s way.

A sudden silence outside, most likely the result of a hawk hunting for its breakfast, reminds me that the predictable whirring of a flight ended Wednesday in a terrible silence because of the political ambitions of a single man, stripped of restraint and drunk on power. I think of soldiers nonchalantly walking through the smoldering evidence of 298 lives, and I am grieved that those who regard life so callously can push a button and destroy, with no remorse, so much potential, so many dreams.

Somehow I know that I am to take these morning thoughts with me throughout my day, not to dwell on but to use as the basis of my prayers. A bright flash of red draws my eyes to the dogwood tree, whose symbolic blossoms in spring remind us of the Cross Jesus died on, and I am struck by the addition of the blood-red to the foliage as the cardinal alights and takes off as suddenly as he came. It is a Word picture of the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, who became the sacrifice, willingly shedding his blood for ALL of humanity.

Yet, unlike any other god, our Redeemer lives. With His ascension to the Father, we who believe in Jesus–who live and move and have our being in Him–have now become His hands, His feet, His voice. He didn’t leave us purposeless but gave us our mission for life. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations,” He said, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” And being the loving Savior He is, Jesus doesn’t end there but gives us a promise, and a really remarkable promise at that. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

The cacophony of the blue jays bossing everyone around at the feeders fills the air, cars pass on the once quiet road, and I go about my day, thankful for thoughts of family and friends, for views of tasseled corn and grazing horses, for work that calls me to the garden, and for the still small Voice within.

I posted this on my Facebook page this morning:  Pray for Brussels, for those injured by the attacks, for the families of those who lost their lives, for the rest of Europe, which is on high alert because of the possibility of other attacks, and for our own country that seems to have grown complacent.

And then I got to thinking about 2 Chronicles 7:14, which is the scripture Christians seem to use the most to call the Church to pray for our country. But have you ever read it in context?

The Lord Gives Solomon a Promise and a Warning
After Solomon finished building the Lord’s temple and the royal palace, and accomplished all his plans for the Lord’s temple and his royal palace, the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him: “I have answered your prayer and chosen this place to be my temple where sacrifices are to be made. When I close up the sky so that it doesn’t rain, or command locusts to devour the land’s vegetation, or send a plague among my people, if my people, who belong to me, humble themselves, pray, seek to please me, and repudiate their sinful practices, then I will respond from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. Now I will be attentive and responsive to the prayers offered in this place. Now I have chosen and consecrated this temple by making it my permanent home; I will be constantly present there. You must serve me as your father David did. Do everything I commanded and obey my rules and regulations. Then I will establish your dynasty, just as I promised your father David, ‘You will not fail to have a successor ruling over Israel.’

“But if you people ever turn away from me, fail to obey the regulations and rules I instructed you to keep, and decide to serve and worship other gods, then I will remove you from my land I have given you, I will abandon this temple I have consecrated with my presence, and I will make you an object of mockery and ridicule among all the nations. As for this temple, which was once majestic, everyone who passes by it will be shocked and say, ‘Why did the Lord do this to this land and this temple?’ Others will then answer, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord God of their ancestors, who led them out of Egypt. They embraced other gods whom they worshiped and served. That is why he brought all this disaster down on them.’”

The message is sobering. I don’t think the majority of Americans appreciate ‘sobering’ messages. It’s just not in our DNA, which is more about the good guy winning, getting the pretty girl, and riding off happily into the sunset.

I used to think like a lot of Christians do that America isn’t mentioned in the Book of Revelation, until I read about the church in Laodicea in the 3rd chapter.

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! Because you say, “I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,” but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see! All those I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent! Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me. I will grant the one who conquers permission to sit with me on my throne, just as I too conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Hmm… If John was referencing the present-day Church, particularly in America, then, at the very least, we’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do! And even if he wasn’t specifically talking about the Church today, John’s description should be a little too close for comfort!

Seriously, is there any question as to whether or not the Church in America has grown soft? We ARE the Church! Look around you, and don’t forget to look within too. Have we become as self-obsessed as the society we live in, only concerned about what affects us personally and/or our churches corporately? Do we as individuals and as organized groups of Christians have poor and unhealthy behaviors and attitudes, which, by the way, is the very definition of dysfunctional? Is that perhaps why so many groups of believers have become ineffectual, no longer able to attract people to fill the pews, much less want to know the One who died for them?

Are we more concerned about how we look to the world on the outside than how we look to God on the inside? Are we buying into the lie that looking thinner, younger, prettier/handsomer, wealthier, and even more spiritual—is what’s really important in this life?

For the record, our priorities do matter to God. It really does all comes down to what our primary focus is. What do we put first? Knowing God or knowing others? Hearing from Him or hearing from others? Talking to Him or talking to others? Looking good for Him or looking good for others?

We talk a lot about what we’re sick and tired of these days, but I find myself wondering what God might be sick and tired of. I think His list has little to do with ours and is a whole lot longer too. Do you suppose God might be sick and tired of us—so sick of our self-obsession that He’s about ‘to vomit us out of His mouth’? Personally, I think He might be getting close.

There’s only one way to win, to overcome, and it will come when, individually, we Christ-followers are willing to humble ourselves before God, confessing and repenting of our sin, and seeking to please God instead of self or others. It is then and only then, when the spirit of humility invades our hearts that He will forgive us and heal our land.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, because “to whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48) Are you up for it, every single day of your life and not just for a few hours each week? If you are, this would be a good time to read 1 Timothy 4, especially verses 11-16, because Paul pretty well sets out what we have to do.

“Command and teach these things. Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that everyone will see your progress. Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach. Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”

Therein lies the test questions for each of us:
* Am I setting an example for other believers in my speech, conduct, love, faithfulness and purity?
* Am I studying the Word of God and encouraging and teaching others about Christ?
* Am I neglecting the spiritual gifts God has given me?
* Am I focused on what God wants me to do to the extent others notice and want to do the same?
* Am I conscientious about how I live and what that says about my relationship with Christ?
* Am I ‘at it’ for God and ‘in it’ until the end?

We can do nothing without God, but with Him, we can change the world, because with God, all things are possible.

Mark 10:23-27 reads: Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were astonished at these words. But again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but not for God; all things are possible for God.”

I am assuming that you, too, would like to see our world, and particularly our country, change for the good. It won’t happen by electing a new president. We should know by now what putting one’s hope in a man who promises hope and change produces. The kind of change we really need will only happen as we humble ourselves and put our faith in the Person of Jesus Christ.

It really is up to us.

If you wonder how to be ‘at it’ for God and don’t know who to ask, you will find what you need to begin pursuing the only life worth living at this website: http://www.gospelway.com/christianlife/change_yourself.php

However, please don’t stop there. Ask God to bring Christ-followers into your life who are taking seriously the Great Commission that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20: Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

The Prayer Posse…

A note from a friend who I and eight other women across the country have been praying for came the other day on the heels of my asking God for ‘blind’ faith, which is the kind of faith that doesn’t look at circumstances but is totally focused on what God already has said.

It’s blinders on a horse that I see in my mind’s eye when I think of blind faith, probably because we share the road with a lot of horse and buggies in our part of Northern Indiana. Blinders serve a purpose. They keep the horse focused on the road ahead and prevent him from being spooked by what’s happening on each side of him. Blinders also make it easier for the horse to get to the destination, because all he has to do is (1) focus on the road ahead and (2) respond correctly to the driver’s voice and reins.

Blind faith is like that. It looks neither to the left or right and is not sidetracked by negative reports or feelings. Neither is it diminished by preconceived notions or perceived danger, but is a faith based wholly upon God’s Word. In fact, blind faith takes God at His word about asking and receiving.

  • “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” Numbers 23:19
  • “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”  Matthew 18:19-20
  • “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:7-12

For quite a few years now, I’ve been a part of a small group of women in various states with whom I share prayer concerns and who share their prayer concerns with me. We know that until there is an answer, we will be faithful to intercede on behalf of that person. Awhile ago I was about to send a prayer request out to the group, and the Lord brought to my mind that we are like a posse–a prayer posse, if you will, who joins together to rescue the good guys from the bad guy with our intercession.

When a prayer need is made known, I email or private message the others; and just as it was in the Wild West when people came together to respond to a crisis, we agree together to pray for that person’s need. Like the sheriff of old who oversaw the efforts of the posse, the Holy Spirit provides us with the guidance we need as we pray.

I know that sounds pretty simplistic, but isn’t that what we do when we intercede for people? Incidentally, I shared that with the posse, and one of them has already formed another prayer posse. Isn’t it just like God to plant an idea and then duplicate it to bring healing and encouragement to people?

Just think for a moment what would happen if everyone who reads this were to reach out to fellow sisters and brothers in Christ for the express purpose of praying in agreement. It could be for one another or for people they’ve never met–people who, just like them, know they need something… but may not know the Someone who’s in the prayer-answering business.

Christ-followers get their prayer instructions from Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 6:6. The New King James Version puts it like this: “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

I really like that passage in The Message: “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” That says a lot, doesn’t it?

I have found that for me the most powerful intercession occurs when I am in agreement with women who are committed to praying individually and separately for a particular person or situation. That kind of prayer does not have the distractions that comes when others are present; and it is no less powerful either, because everyone is in agreement.

Perhaps the greatest blessing of praying in secret is that you come “to sense His grace”–God’s unmerited favor–in your life. There is no other way to explain what happens when we go to Him alone in prayer, other than we know we have been in His Presence, the wonder of which often lingers throughout our day.

The coolest tool in the toolbox to assemble a prayer posse is the Internet, because you can email/private message prayer needs/answers with no delay to wherever in the world members of your posse live. It’s not even necessary that everyone knows each other, since one person is the message relay person.

I think the reason Jesus tells us to pray in secret is because, first, He knows how prideful we can be, and second, He knows how insecure we can be. Think about it. Usually in any group, large or small, there will be one or two dominant people, who just naturally talk the most; and there will be those who are there but never say a word. It’s no different in prayer groups.

Have you ever been in a small group situation with a person who is first out of the gate 95 percent of the time when a prayer need is mentioned? The well-meaning person generally prays at length, as in really long prayers, leaving everyone literally prayer-less as he/she finally hits the homestretch and finishes up. It may seem humorous afterwards but it’s irritating as it happens. I’m pretty sure that if God only needed one person to do all the praying, no one else would have shown up.

Now, back to my friend. I received a private message from her that the prayers that we had stood together with her in faith, believing, were answered! As I read her words of praise to God and ‘heard’ her joy, I felt like dancing!!!

I’d like to encourage you to ask God for blind faith, built on these words, “Hath God not said?”! You have no idea the difference it will make in your prayer life. And, if you feel the tug of God on your heart about forming your own prayer posse, there’s no telling the difference it will make in a whole lot of lives!

Happy prayers to you!  (Remind you of anyone?)

I am…

I am a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, raised in a Quaker family where I heard the merits of the love, joy, and peace of Jesus every Sunday and most Wednesdays for the first 18 years of my life.

I am peace-loving, inclusive, thoughtful because of the gentle people who influenced my life the most. I do not see the world in black and white but in the myriad of colors of those around the world I pray for–the children, mainly, for once I was lost but now I am found.

I am wise to the deceptions of this world, for I have seen them up close and personal in valleys where I came to know the One who loves me like no other. The naivete of childhood was never a luxury I enjoyed because of battles fought to find the child I really was.

I expect from no one but God, because I learned early that He is the one who will never fail me or leave me like the orphan I once was in a storm of others’ making. I am a child of my Father, whose sons and daughters are my brothers and sisters for whom I pray.

I am unapologetically me, unabashedly His, and unqualifiedly a champion of all that is right and good in this world. I am spiritual, comical, political, thankful, and careful, because once a long time ago someone saw me as salvageable.

I can be long-winded at times, but I am a good listener. I want to talk sense into those who do the same destructive things to themselves over and over again, all the while knowing the outcome will be no different than it was the first time.

I believe that God has the ability to change the lives of those who choose to believe in Him, and I believe that God will protect the right of those who choose not to believe in Him. I believe that I am proof that God is no respecter of persons and can change anyone.