Joy Is A Person

studio early morningThe sound of rain on the metal roof of my studio is absolutely wonderful . . .  6:00 a.m, coffee in the studio, and the inspiration to write.  It  makes me happy.

But, I want to talk about JOY.

 

Americans are addicted to ‘happiness’.  Never mind if it’s right or wrong, as long as it makes you happy — that’s the important thing.  But happiness is shallow, temporary, dependent on surroundings and feeling.  It’s not a gage to measure morality.  Telling someone to do whatever makes them happy might be very poor advice.

Here are some of my thoughts on JOY:

JOY  is rooted in Christ.

We often mix up joy and happiness.  They are not the same.  Happiness can be separate from Christ, God’s Joy cannot.  Joy is the fruit of His goodness in our lives.   It’s not something He doles out in discriminating portions, greater for His favorites, less for the ordinary.

It’s not possible to have Jesus and not have Joy, because Christ is the endless source.

Joy is a fruit.  It’s the second “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22) The first being love.  Our awareness of  JOY grows as our relationship with Him grows, but the seed of that JOY came in its fullness when we opened our hearts to Him.

A thought:  Have you considered that the listing of the fruits of the Spirit is a progression?  Everything stems from being rooted and grounded in love for Christ (#1) If we are in relationship with Him, we’ll have joy (#2).  If we have love and joy, we’ll have peace (#3).  If we have love, joy and peace, we’ll have long-suffering and gentleness and so forth.

Joy doesn’t run out.  You can’t use up your joy and then need more.  We can lose the sense, or awareness of His joy, but it never leaves us.  It doesn’t drain away when life comes down hard and we’re torn to pieces by tragedy, happiness does, but not JOY.  Because our JOY is a Person.

Joy comes mixed with hope.  It’s the cement that holds us together when our circumstances are saying there is no hope.  When Bill died, I had a deep JOY knowing the hope that I would come through the grief.  It supersedes circumstances, feelings and surroundings.  It’s present through the saddest times, and the greatest pain.  It’s present when you’re happy and when you’re not, because our JOY is Jesus.

Joy is our strength.   “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)  During this period in Israel’s history, the law of the Lord had been forgotten.  Nehemiah brought it back.  The people’s awareness of their sin brought tears mingled with gratitude and Nehemiah said,  “This day is holy unto the Lord . . . therefore, mourn not, nor weep: go your way; eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared . . . for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  

Notice JOY’s connection with the Word (law) of the Lord, and sharing what you have with others.  Maybe our lack of joy is connected with spiritual starvation and self-centeredness.

Joy is by faith. Circumstances may rob our happiness, but nothing can steal our joy.  We have joy when we are at rest in Him.  However,  we can have all the money we need in the bank, but  we don’t withdraw any we will always remain poor.  Sometimes we have to reach for what we need.  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)  What stands on the other side of the door you’re knocking on?  Is it a thing?  A feeling? Or is it a Person?

Do you need JOY?  It’s yours, in Christ, already.

 

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Oh Oden!

oden ready to goReady To Go!!!!

I was packing the last things in my car before leaving for my ministry engagement, dressed in new black pants, and turned to see Oden behind the steering wheel of my car.

He had already polished off a tin of mints left on the dash – so, he was minted-up and ready to go.  (You know you can’t be in the ministry without a good supply of mints)

“You can’t go, Oden.”  I barked.  He glared at me and held his ground.  That’s when I noticed he’d just been in his wadding pool!!!  (Interesting: he has a pool and I don’t.)

oden let's go 2 Oden lets go 3So much for my new black pants — oh Oden

Oden sure knows how to stand his ground when he wants to do something.  One hundred and twenty-five pounds of ‘puppy’ determination is not easy to move.  I lured him with one more mint.

Interestingly enough the topic for my seminar:  Standing Your Ground . . . or, in Oden’s case,  Sitting Your Ground.

I dragged out my ugly bermuda shorts, sat on the wet car seat, and left. Well, Lord, I have a feeling we’re going to have a good time.   And we did.

The Holy Spirit was there – along with His faithful ministers waiting for His lead.  Sylvia Evans calls my introductory story time before each session:  Marji Moments.  I love that name – yet it does make me wonder if she’s thinking: Marji is having a moment?

There’s something about where I am in my ministry journey — I just show up and people start laughing!  (I trust not AT me, though the bermudas got a few chuckles before I changed.  I think it’s the blinding streaks of WHITE that protrude from the bottom of the shorts — my legs!  Besides, I can’t resist taking the occasional duck stance)

It’s hard for me to be serious for very long — but I’ve learned that it is a part of the anointing on my life. I believe God wants His kids to laugh.  But, even though my listeners seemed geared up to laugh at any moment, the message He gave me this time was a serious one.  Learning to stand our ground against the wiles of the enemy.  This is no laughing matter, but the joy that follows is definitely a happy thing.

The team always has a brief meeting before each session.  I responded to something that was said with “its a happy thing.”  Instantly the music was in my head and when I got up for my “Marji-moment” I sang the chorus that was hot off the press.  I wish you could have been there to hear those women sing along with me.  It was a God moment and a new chorus has been born.

It is an honor to be in the ministry, and I couldn’t do it without the power of the Holy Spirit and the faithful prayers of my friends –Even when the engagement starts off with a wet car seat!

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His Heart and His Hands At Work – the Gypsy Church

gypsy churchFor me, the highlight of our trip to Ukraine was when we visited the Gypsy Church.  They  greeted our team enthusiastically.  These warm-hearted, affectionate  people let us know how glad they were to have us visit.  The 90 degree, humid weather, and no air-conditioning, didn’t stop their tight hugs and generous kisses.  This rather reserved American, who doesn’t like touching when it’s hot,  got swept off her feet.  And, I loved it.

Before I tell you my story, I want to tell you about the Gypsy people.  The Roma people are a much-maligned people who live primarily in Eastern Europe but are also all over the world.  More commonly called Gypsies, the Roma people are thought to have emerged from India in the 11th or 12th century.

A superstition that gypsies were thieves, baby-stealers and fortune tellers led to their enslavement and years of persecution throughout Europe.  During the Holocaust, Nazis killed between 220,000 and 1.5 million Roma.  (The Roma People of Carpath-Ukraine, by Michael Parker)

Gypsy 2But out of the ashes of hundreds of years of persecution, God is building His church. One cherished brother in the Lord carries the heart of God to hundreds, if not thousands, of Gypsies in Ukraine.  The churches he oversees keep growing.

Their worship was amazing.  Gypsies are known for their skillful musicianship.  I later learned the worship team were professionals who travelled extensively in ministry. We were so blessed.  The people responded enthusiastically to my music, too.  Open tears were heard throughout the audience as I began to play.  Music is their language, and God was anointing mine across language barriers and cultural differences.  It was amazing to watch.

The Lord anointed Kat’s music, too (a young woman on our team)  She played keyboard and sang.  The worship team spontaneously joined in – wow.  It was an awesome time. God is grooming her.

gypsy village 2I spoke on the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well.  Though she came at an hour when the fewest people would be present, fearing the glares brought by her reputation, Jesus was waiting–just for her.

The theme was:  God heals the brokenhearted.  Kat returned to the keyboard after the teaching and the prayer lines began.  Everyone crowded up front, (swarmed is a better word) surrounding me, petting my arms and back.  We stood, Nan and I, for almost three hours.  They just kept coming.  Tears drenched our shoulders.  Their sweat slicked our cheeks as one by one they came to be prayed for.

“Father, lift the sadness off Your daughter’s heart . . .”   “Heal this broken heart . . .”

Mothers brought their little children:  “Pray for my child . . . ”  the interpreter helped me understand.  Liver diseases.  Kidney problems.  Heart issues.  Little ones with adult size problems partially due to poor nutrition, a history of poor water, and a health system that treats the Gypsy last.

carpathukraine2With every ministry trip, you pour out, you pray, and then you go home and try to pick up where you left off–but you can’t.  A mission trip like this changes you.  There’s a side of it that you just can’t write about in a blog, or even testify to.  Most wonderful are the intimate moments with the Lord when you can feel His heart, and His hands at work.  It’s watching the change in a woman’s eyes, knowing your part was infinitesimally small.

We’ll never know the fullness of what He accomplished in their hearts until we see Him face to face.  I know I don’t have to wait until Heaven to know what happened in mine.

(Last photo from Michael Parker's post, Author unknown)
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Because One Woman Couldn’t Walk Away

ukraine boyHe wouldn’t look at me at first. He peeked out from his mother’s skirt, curious, but afraid.  Scratches, etched by his own little fingers, dotted his face. Slowly he raised the little truck he held tightly in his hand.

See . . . ? 

I gushed over the scuffed toy and I saw a cautious trust appear in his eyes.  Tears burned in my throat as my spirit felt the trauma of the life he’d come from.

I could feel the love of God in my eyes.  I think he felt it too, because he let go of his mother’s skirt and lifted the toy up so I could have a good look.

His sister stood next to him. She wore her history in her eyes.  Deep purple circles framedukraine girl her sad eyes.  What have you seen little one?  What has happened to you?  When I took her picture, a hint of a smile arched her eyebrows.

Five more appeared.  Brothers and sisters from the same mother, from the same abusive past. Fed by neglect. Undernourished.  Growth stunted, bodies underdeveloped.  I was told they ate mosquitoes to stay alive.

Then an angel appeared.  Her name, Maria.  She wasn’t beautiful, but she was glowing.  A women, with her own three children, adopted these seven out of the pit of hell.  The ‘father’ and birth mother–drug addicts–caught in their own netherworld.

The children arrived in Maria’s home barely able to walk, some not talking at all.  One year later, they are clean, loved, walking and talking.  All because one woman couldn’t walk away.

Because one woman couldn’t walk away.

Marie came up for prayer.  Another adopted son, this one age five, had his arms locked around her neck.   “He won’t let go of me,” she said through the interpreter. “It’s not good for him or me.  Please pray.”

What prayer do I pray when this little child carries the scars of an unimaginable past?  What words to I shape?  Holy Spirit . . . pray through me.

The moment I placed my hand on him, he squirmed to get away and squeezed even tighter.  I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.  They gushed forward as the words came:  “Father, please sever the cord holding this child to the trauma of his past.  In Jesus name.”

ukraine boy 2She thanked me and walked away.  The little boy never lifted his head from her neck.

The prayer line continued, but a part of me never left those children.  A family of twelve living in a tiny, two bedroom apartment with no father.  How does a woman bare such a burden?  Only by the grace of God.

And it was the grace of God that caused that same little boy to come running into the church the next morning with a smile on his face.

He is free!

Marie was beaming.  “He’s so different.”

Thank you, Father.   And thank you to every person who prayed for our team.  More stories to come.  Blessings, me

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Put On Your Dancing Shoes!

page 1 - coverI know what you’re going to say . . . “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?”  I’ve been here, but not blogging.  This has been a time for writing my book, finishing my two new kid’s books: Is That My Bus?  and “Baby Moose in Blahville.”

Plus, of course, grandkids, church, and Oden the Awesome (now one year old and 120lbs)  Phew. Don’t ask me about a clean house and tidy gardens.

I spend so many hours at the computer with illustrations and writing that I’m pooped out by the time it comes to blogging.  But there’s more . . .

Things are changing–have you noticed?

The Holy Spirit is turning up the fire in our bones for Papa’s Kingdom.  NOW is the time for us to stand-up and step into the dream God has in His heart for each one of us.

Many of you, like me, are coming out of a long, dry season.  Well, I hear the Lord saying, “Put on your dancing shoes and hold on tight because I am waltzing you into new dips and turns, and moves of My Spirit.  If you want to venture with Me into the dance I am dancing in this hour–focus your attention on how I am moving moment by moment.  Don’t rely on dance moves from the past.  This is a dance you haven’t danced before, though it is built upon the moves of the past.   Lean in, stay loose, don’t think you know the steps of this dance because I’m leading you in ways beyond your experience and skill.  The only way you can keep on the toes of My shoes is to lean in, remain flexible and let Me lead.

Are you losing interest in things you used to consider important?  If you were to ask a health professional they’d probably tell you about depression, because losing interest in things you used to enjoy is one of the signs. Or, maybe it’s because the Holy Spirit is giving us new priorities and interests.  Maybe the new things God wants us to be focusing on won’t allow us the time to do those other activities.  I would never downplay those who  do suffer from depression, but consider what I’m saying.  Maybe God wants us to let go of some things in order to free our hands for new things.

July 12th, I’m leaving for the Ukraine with a small team from my church.  When I was considering if I should go, a man came up to me at a meeting, pointed his finger at me and said,  “You have an international anointing.”  I did not know that man, but his encouragement was the blessing I needed to say yes.

I don’t like to travel.  I like to stay home.  Stay in my safe routine. Sleep in my own bed and never miss my afternoon nap.  But God is saying “GO.”  I have an old suitcase I took to Africa 20 years ago, but then I thought, if I have an international anointing I’d better get a suitcase that will be easy to maneuver.  Where will I go?  I don’t know.  The steps beyond the immediate ones are a mystery to me–but I know I have a little part to play in the dream of God’s heart . . . and it will be good.

I’m hoping that this blog will do two things:

1.  Encourage you to step out in the dream God has put in your heart, and trust Him for step by step guidance.

2.  Remember our team in your prayers as we venture out into new territory with the Lord– from July 12th through the 27th.

God bless you all, Love Marji

Blahville cover green

Is That My Bus and Baby Moose in Blahville can be purchased through www.marjistevensshop.com in August

 

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“Away, intruders! Away!”

robbin3“Move OVER!”  Feathers squirmed and shifted in the nest.

I’ve been watching the nest over my front door for weeks.  I couldn’t see how many eggs, but I knew eggs were there because mommy robin hovered over head  every time I tried to sit on my swing.  She’d chirp loudly and  dive at the porch, swerving at the last minute.  I was a huge intrusion to her space.

Then one day, seemingly overnight, a little beak appeared . . . then two, three, four.

Bird poop accumulated at my front door, seeds everywhere, a dropped worm or two–now covered with ants.  Birds are messy, for sure, but I don’t care.  This is holy ground, the birthing room of new life.

robbin2Today I risked a brief swing, but momma wouldn’t have it.  Then I heard ruffling, grabbed my camera, and caught the first launching.  Momma screamed in the background,  “Get away! Those are my babies!”

I meant no harm, but she didn’t care.  She was small compared to me, but her size didn’t stop her.  An intruder was in her claimed space and she fearlessly fought to preserve home and family.

Can you tell where I’m going with this?

We’ve been given so much as Christians.  Are we defending our God-given space?  Are we bold fighters against every intrusion from the world?

When discouragement looms over your heart, what do you do?

When messages surround you,  saying,  “God won’t provide,”  or “He doesn’t love me,” or “There’s no hope in God,” what do you do?  Do you fight against the intruders of your faith and inheritance in Christ?  I know how easy it is to let them slide right in, not realizing the cost of my complacency.

I hear the Holy Spirit this morning:  “Don’t let the intruder in your space.”

robbin4I was privileged to watch one bold little robin fly from the nest.  He couldn’t go very far, but he did it.  And his brothers and sisters followed. The fourth robin hid behind the grapevine over the door, too timid and unsure, but gradually hopped and flew over the porch railing.

robbin1It happened so fast.  They were just eggs–moments ago–and now they’re flying.  We don’t have many years to influence our children before they want to fly.  Often they fly before they seemed ready to us, but they are determined to be on their own.

I’m a year from seventy, my son’s are in their late forties, where did the time go?  When I study them I can see the good influences of home and faith, and I can also see where we might have done a little more of this and that.  Now I watch my grandchildren, standing on the edge of their nests wanting to fly.

robbin5Chapel, age four, told his mom she needed to drop him off in my driveway and NOT get out of the car.  “The big kids don’t need their mom to walk them to Mimmy’s door. You stay in the car.”  He’s already stretching his wings, pushing against little-hood, wanting to be the “big kid.”

They grow up so quickly–and don’t want the same kind of protection anymore.  But we can pray.  We can watch closely and pray boldly:  “These are our babies . . .Away, intruders.  Away!”

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The Walking Temple

sunrise 3 -11:15“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

There is a written word, and there is a speaking word.  Jesus is the speaking Word of God.  God is not a withholding Father, His nature is love expressed.  Jesus, the Word, came to speak to man.  God wanted to be heard.  Jesus is the very heart and mind and voice of God.  The all supreme Creator of Heaven and earth with legs–a  physical form that the world was able to see, and hear, and touch.   A walking temple.

My little niece is pointing to a beautiful rainbow.  Imagine if that rainbow suddenly took on flesh and walked right up to her.  Hope with legs!  How thrilling.

savannah:rainbow“And looking at Jesus as He walked, he (John the Baptist) said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ And the two disciples (with John) heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.”  

Imagine standing there, in the heat of the day, watching the Word of God walk toward you.  Imagine the impact of His presence that made those men drop everything and follow.

What was it that made you start to follow Jesus?

The woman at the well left her water pots and ran to her village to tell the people what she had heard.  “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in him because of the word of the woman . . .” (John 4:39)  That’s  one level of faith: believing the Word because of the testimony of another.

But Jesus was sent to express the a love beyond mere acquaintance.

“So when the Samaritans had come to Him (they said) . . . Now we believe not because of what you (the woman) said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.  (John 4:42)

“We heard for ourselves and know . . .”   

DSC05983There is a knowing that infers being aware of something.  Then, there is a knowing that comes from a developed relationship, from spending time with someone like a friend.

We know our parents, or siblings, our good friends.  But beyond friendship, beyond accumulated knowledge, comes a deeper relationship of intimacy, like the intimacy of marriage.

We have been invited by the Word made flesh to move  from being aware, to friendship, to intimacy. My husband and I had a deep relationship coming from forty-two years of communication. We spent hours talking and hours in each others embrace.  Father wants us to sit in His embrace, listen to His whispers, and know Him deeply.

The walking Temple . . . the Speaking God . . . our hope made flesh . . . the One who knows when we sit or stand . . . is knocking on the door of our heart today.

 

 

 

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Which Warnings Do We Respond To?

warning signSocial media is full of warnings these days.  It’s dizzying. And they all scream for immediate attention.

Which warnings should we listen to?

Confusion hangs in the air like heavy humidity.  I could fill this blog with just the warnings I read on one visit to Facebook. Everything, from the way we eat, to finances, to the condition of our country.  Just listen to our candidates threaten doom if we vote for their opponent!

There is SO much happening around us to cause anxiety. What is our approach as Christians?  The only warnings we need to pay close attention to are the warnings of the Lord.

The one I’m hearing this morning is:  “Be anxious for nothing . . .” (Philippians 4:6 NAS)

You might say,  “Yeah, that’s nice, but you don’t know my circumstances.” Or, “It’s not that easy.”  I know.  War is never easy, and that’s exactly what it is.

acid-warning-sign-s-0317Why do I see this verse as a warning?  God isn’t telling us this so we can be happy.  He’s warning us because He knows how crippling anxiety is,  and the stealth of our enemy.  Anxiety can’t be handled with a quick gulp of Pepto-Bismal.

God never gives us a warning without showing us what posture to take.

Philippians 4:6 continues,  ” . . .but (instead) in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

“I pray!” you say.  Me too, but too often we leave prayer with the same frame of mind as  when we started.  I dare to say, when this happens, it’s possible we never really prayed at all.  We’ve only complained.  Prayer is meant to be two sided relationship. If all we do is talk at God and never listen to what He has to say, we’re settling for a one-sided relationship.  He might have solutions we’re missing because we’re just dumping, not communicating.

If we stop with “Be anxious for nothing . . .” it’s enough to leave us frustrated. “How do I do that, God?”  Here’s the answer: after we’ve cast all our cares, and focused on thanking Him for who He is and what He has done for us,  He gives us a promise.  “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NAS)  

Jesus able to sleep soundly in the boat while a storm was raging, because the reality of His Father’s kingdom was a greater reality than the reality of the storm.  That’s His example for us to believe for.  He is greater than any anxiety, any problem, any feeling.

This morning I had to swim through the yucky, entangling weeds of anxiety and worry before I could get to the clear waters of trust.  It took a while, but He encouraged me to press in until I laid hold of the promise.

 True peace flows from a heart that knows God is bigger than our problems.

 

I believe He is whispering His warning to us today:  “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis  4:7 NAS)  

The Lord wants us to master the circumstances of life with the peace His so desires to give.

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NAS)

 

 

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Is That My Bus? Finding God’s Direction

Hazel page 1 climbed from bedI’m working on a new children’s book: Is That My Bus?  Little Hazel is going to school for the first time.  She has BIG butterflies of excitement but is unsure which bus to take.  Mommy makes sure she gets on the right one.  It’s a little far fetched to think the child has never seen a school bus perhaps, but it’s a story–a parable, about finding the right way to go.

Then Hazel sees the correct bus filled with her friends, she is filled with peace and gladly gets climbs the steps and waves good-bye to her mom.

hazel p7 Is this?

 

Sometimes it’s difficult to discern God’s will.  Especially if you’re doing something you’ve never done before.  I’m going to the Ukraine in July–that’s a new one.  I prayed for a specific word and the only one that came is in John 14:6 . . .

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

There may be one person that I’m going for, one soul who needs to come to the Father.  Perhaps God will grant me the privilege of loving them into the Kingdom.

I taught my kids to be propelled by peace.  If you’ve prayed about a decision, and feel peace, go for it.  And we have a God who will correct our path should we go the wrong way.

Peace gives us courage.  Knowing God’s gives us peace.  Are you seeking direction?  I’m not a formula-minded person, because I believe God wants us to rely on the Holy Spirit, not a formula.  What I do is pray, wait, and get good council, then pray and wait again.

Often, I’ll being seeing myself doing what I’m asking direction for.  For example, I can see myself riding on the train through the mountains of the Ukraine.  I can see myself doing art with children and singing.  I already can sense love rising in my heart for the people I will meet.  And I have a sense God is going to do something really special in me.

hazel rumble roarIt takes courage to step out and do something for the first time.  Just like little Hazel going to a big school, in a big bus, for the very big, first time.  I cried when my boys left on the school bus–sobbed my little heart out.  Then I kicked up my heels and enjoyed being alone in the house without the rug rats ramming around.

There has been a lot of “first times” for me since Bill died. God’s faithfulness kept me making right decisions–even when I didn’t pray and wait and get council.  Because, Father loves, loves, loves us–more than we could ever love Him.

What a happy thing.  Step out boldly, friends.  Father would rather you need a course correction than cower in fear of making a mistake.

Happy, happy, friends,  Marji

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But if it feels good . . . isn’t that enough?

Chapel's Autlo 2“I think you turn here,” I said to my friend on a trip to Houghton.  My job was being the navigator reading the google map.

“No,” she said.  “That doesn’t feel right.  I think we should go this way.”  She confidently turned the car around, and it turns out she was absolutely correct.  She went with her peace.  Google said, “That way . . .”  The Holy Spirit said, “This way.”

But if google said . . . isn’t that enough?  We can’t look to the world for our guidance–even from the google-god.  We have to look to Jesus and His Word for our guidance.  It’s easy to forget we are not of this world.  We are citizen’s of God’s Kingdom.  The world can not be our guide.

But it feels good . . . isn’t that enough?  Heroine feels good, but is it God’s best?  Hardly.

But everyone is doing it . . . isn’t that enough?  When God called us to holiness, that was the first sign that we would not be living like everyone else.

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.” (2 Timothy 1:9 NIV)

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:’Be holy, because I am holy’.” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV)

Chapel's AutoWhen Paul was a prisoner, King Agrippa ordered that he and other prisoners sail to Italy.  When sailing became dangerous Paul advised them not to continue.  “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss . . .”  Nevertheless, the centurion in charge believed the helmsman . . .and the majority advised them to set sail.”

Majority is not the rule.  At first a southerly wind blew and things seemed fine.  Then, the wind shifted and in blew a fierce, eastern tempest called, Euroclydon.

Paul had God’s direction, so Paul had God’s confidence–even in the center of  Euroclydon.

Our world is increasingly dangerous.  All the issues in this country scream for immediate attention as if facinig a giant, unsolvable tempest. (unemployment, the dollar, debt, crazy viruses, terrorism, to name a few) As Christians, we need to have our ears tuned to the Master as never before. Our decisions must not be based on majority opinion.  If the world says, spend, it might be just the time to save. Our behavior must never be determined by what everyone else is doing.

The soft wind mentioned in Acts 27:13 gave the crew a false sense of security.  “And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose,  putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete.”  It must have felt right, but the Word of the Lord had come warning them not to go.  They didn’t listen.  These men were seasoned sailors.  They must have known the dangers of the Mediterranean, right?  But, in dangerous times, our experience must not be our guide either.

Sometimes God’s “no” doesn’t make sense.  It may seem contrary to all the voices around us.  But without God’s “yes” we will not have God’s blessing.  That, to me, is more frightening  than any Euroclydon I might face.  Paul interceded, and God’s mercy came and they were all saved, but with great cost.

Chapel's Auto 1My grandson and I like to play “Chapel’s Auto”.  We draw the road and the buildings and then move our little cars around. We’ll  play this for hours.  He is learning to read the signs.  Stop.  Go.  Wait.  I pray, especially in these days, that we read the signs, hear God’s small still voice, and never venture on without His peace.

Father, help us be more attuned to Your voice than ever before.  Forgive us for choosing the ways of the world over Your holiness.  Please, in Your mercy, lead us in this hour in the ways of righteousness.   For Thy name sake, Amen.

 

 

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“No thank you, I don’t do discouragement.”

heart 2I have only one word on my heart this morning:  discouragement.

Is this a problem you face today?  For whatever reason, the weather, your aches and pains, perhaps you don’t want to be where you are right now.  Have you recently hoped for breakthrough and it didn’t come?  Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand that you do not want to embrace discouragement.

Discouragement is an enemy of the faith–and  a tool the devil uses often to render us useless.  The actual definition of discouragement in the Hebrew is: to hinder, restrain, frustrate, to neutralize.

It means to render of none-effect?

It also comes with a slew of lies like: God doesn’t care. When I start feeling discouraged, all I have to do is check to see where my eyes are.  They’re usually on myself and my feelings.

A word often coupled with discourage is  to dismay:  chathath: to be shattered or dismayed, to terrify.  There are over 50 references to being dismayed.  Discouragement and being dismayed go together.  It brings confusion.

“See, the LORD your God has given you the land.  Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the god of your ancestors, told you.  Do not be dismayed (afraid); do not be discouraged.” Deut. 1:21

The children of Israel were told to go in and take the land that God had already given them–Canaan.  They ended up murmuring in their tents: “God brought us out here to kill us. He doesn’t care about us.”  Even when the spies returned with arms full of fruit to show them how good and rich land was, it wasn’t enough.  So, they didn’t go in and possess the land.  They continued wandering in the wilderness.

We have to keep our eyes on God, on His ability and promises.  Do we really believe He is Lord over our lives?  Then we must not give discouragement any place.

DSC04070“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Year ago, our church went on a fast. The details of the fast were a private matter between the participant and the Lord. I chose a fast I’d been on before, but by day three I was failing miserably.  I asked the Lord if I’d missed His direction.  His answer floored me:  I don’t want to to fast food, I want you to fast discouragement.”

When you fast, you stop eating to spend more time with the Lord.  Every time I began to feel discouraged, I would turn to God.  It was a life changing fast.

Discouraged today?  Just say,  “No way! I don’t do discouragement, in Jesus name.”

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Kisses – Part Two

kissHave you ever hugged someone who is unresponsive? You throw your arms around them and it’s like hugging a board. It makes you wonder.

We’ve been created to be responders. I remember my husband being absorbed in a movie one time, I reached over to give him a kiss and … well, a peck without taking his eyes off the TV is not a kiss-kiss. He wasn’t interested in responding to me at the time.

If the Lord has kisses for us…is it possible for us to kiss the Lord?

Hold on to your hats and get ready for a joy explosion:

The Greek word for worship is proskuneo, from pros: toward, and kuneo: to kiss!  To worship is to kiss toward.   When we worship God… we are sending Him kisses!

The longer I knew my husband, the sweeter his kisses became, because I was growing in my knowledge of what a wonderful, trustworthy, man he was.  We have to know the Lord before our worship becomes sweet.

 It’s knowing who Jesus is that makes us want to worship.

But wait, there’s more…  A kiss is not one-sided.  It takes two. We are created to be responders to God.  So, if I want to respond with a kiss —  how?

Proverbs 24:26 says, “He who gives a right answer kisses the lips.” As I wrote in Kisses Part one,  God’s Word is the fruit of His lips. He has the right answer for us and when we return His words back to Him we are responding with a kiss.

When I respond to the circumstances in my life with the Word He has made alive in my heart — I’m sending Him my kisses.

When I worship Him with my whole heart — I’m sending Him my kisses.

Every time I vocalize my gratitude for His presence and blessings in my life —  I’m sending Him my kisses.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of  our lips that give thanks to His name. (Hebrews 13:15 NAS)

One of the first things my kids learned was how to blow a kiss.  It was so cute to see them try to blow a kiss hard enough to reach me across the room.  We were constantly blowing kisses to each other.

When I’m working around my house and I stop for a second and say, “Lord,  I love you,”  I like to think I’ve just blown Him a kiss.

IMG_0852I was meditating and praying His Word one day and suddenly a picture filled my thoughts. The Lord was sitting on a stump with His elbows resting on His knees, and He was devouring a great, big, juicy orange.

Then I saw the label on the orange…Sunkist!  Of course I thought Son-Kissed.

Just read Psalm 119, and every time you see words like:  law, statutes, precepts, commands, decrees, substitute it with “Word”.   For example:  “With my lips I recount all the law (Word) which come from your mouth.” (Psalm 119: 13)

Corny? No way. These kisses are just the thing we need to keep us going.

And an orange is the perfect image  to convey fresh-sweet-delicious-better than wine-fulfilling-drippy joy.

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Kisses – Part One

IMG_0847There are all sorts of kisses. Candy kisses. Butterfly kisses. Little kiss smudges left on the window after the kids come for a visit. Mom’s kisses. Hello kisses. Good-bye kisses. Family kisses. The kisses of a friend. Even little licks on your ankle from a pet.
Then there are the kind of kisses saved for your spouse. Unlike any other, they are lingering kisses of love and sweet commitment.

But did you know there is another kind of kiss as mentioned in the Song of Solomon? These are the kisses of the Heavenly Bridegroom saved for His Beloved Bride.

I looked up “kisses” in the Strong’s Concordance and discovered: KISS – (nasahaq) carries the meaning to fasten upon, to touch as a mode of attachment. It comes from the root, nasaq, meaning to kindle, burn, catch fire.

Are you ready to be blown away? It also means: to equip with weapons.

Think about it. Our weapons come from the fruit of His lips, His Words, tenderly spoken to our hearts. Not the casual kiss, like that of a friend, but going beyond that to deeper, undivided love. This is the relationship that sets our hearts ablaze.

My husband used to blow me a kiss over his shoulder. They were funny and lighthearted; but the kisses that cemented our relationship were when he’d stop what he was doing, sweep me into his embrace, look me in the eyes and kiss me. Face to face. Nothing distracting. Not in a hurry. Giving full attention.

“Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth for your love is more delightful than wine.” Sol.1:2 Wine symbolizes things we turn to other than Jesus. We have wonderful relationships and blessings in this world, but nothing is sweeter that the fruit of our relationship with Him.

The heat of battle is not the time to learn about our defenses. That is not the time to wonder if He’s there for you. It’s in the quiet time that weapons are planted in our heart. When trials come, those things God has made alive in us will rise to the surface and shield us.

Times alone – with no distractions. Times spent talking, learning who He is. Time spent contemplating and rehearsing His truth. I will always remember and cherish my husband’s kisses. I miss standing on my tippy toes to reach for him.

Each day, when I go to my comfy chair to be with the Lord, I anticipate His kisses. Heavenly kisses that can never be taken away.

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Carriers of His Presence

merry go round 1“Can we go on the merry-go-round, Mimmy?” I looked down at the little person at my side and groaned inside. I hate going round and round on those things. Everything in me wants to focus the world spinning around me – but it’s impossible. Instead, I end up staring down at my lap praying I don’t get sick.

“Maybe later,” I said crossing my fingers.

I quickly steered him away. Fortunately, there were many exciting things ahead of us at the Strong National Museum of Play. By the time we were ready to leave and passed by the merry-go-round again, my little grandson’s eyes were glazed over with exhaustion and he never even saw it. Thank you, Lord.

I sat on the porch this morning trying to find focus. My thoughts were spinning: this needs to get done, and that, and then there’s . . . Have you been there?

It seems like so many things in this world are at crisis level screaming for immediate attention. Pressure. Responsibilities. Expectations. Spin . . . spin . . . spin.

I tried focusing on the beauty of spring blooming all around me, but what I saw instead was: the garden’s a mess, I have to get the weeds while they’re small. . . the car needs repair . . . that tree limb should come down . . . I need to write the bills, and make those phone calls . . . and . . . spin . . . spin . . . spin.

Within moments I was in tears, wishing my husband was here to help me unravel the confusion and help me find my focus again. This continues to be the greatest challenge of widowhood – no one to help you process.

Then, I heard the Lord whisper . . . “Rest. . . My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” ( John 14:27)

I think it happens to all of us. If we’re not careful we can end up worn thin by all the things contending for our attention.

merry go round 2

“… But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” (Luke 21:34)

This is what the devil is doing: he is trying to get us overwhelmed, and spread too thin.

The battle is in our minds, for our peace, all for the purpose of wearing us down so we become ineffective, dull, powerless Christians. That’s the devil’s plan.

A merry-go-round life? No thanks! God has not enlisted us to merely be chaos-monitors, but to be carriers of His Presence.

Father, thank you for encouraging me this morning. I pray for my friends, show us what we are to be choosing moment-by-moment. We want to follow YOU, not be pushed by the world, the flesh and the devil. Help us to be more sensitive to Your Holy Spirit. Thank you that we’re not left to find our way in life alone – we have You. We love you, Lord, in Your precious Son’s name, Amen.

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Are We Missing Something?

double rainbow

What a rainbow!  I wouldn’t want to miss seeing this.  I wonder how much we are missing in life because we don’t linger in God’s Presence.  There is such a spirit of hurry in the air.  I don’t remember a time in my life when waiting on the Lord was under such attack.

There seems to be so much opposition, a push to go-go, no time for silence, no time to listen, no time to read the Word.  Distractions are at every turn.

This morning I was drawn to Acts 1 . . . it’s after the resurrection . . .

“. . .He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

Wouldn’t you love to have been there?  Jesus never spoke mixture.  He message wasn’t adulterated by culture or pride.  What was His first instruction to the disciples?

“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the Promise of the Father . . .”  

I’m wondering if Jesus could get us to do that today.  Wait.  Wait for the  Promise of the Father.  The word promise is capitalized–because the Promise of the Father is a Person.

I’m concerned we’re losing this edge in the current church culture.  We look for the next video,  whatever is captivating and entertaining.  Could we be missing the Promise of the Father?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be witnesses . . .”  

Being “empowered” is a catch phrase these days.  Empowerment in Wikipedia means: to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people in order to enable them to represent their interests.   Autonomy means “one who gives oneself one’s own law.”  Interesting.

This is not the power of the Bible.  Power is a characteristic of God.  Power is a person not merely power.  Powerful Christian living is the result of living in union with God.  It is never something we possess a part from Him.  It is not self-determination, or self-rule, it’s all about surrender and submission to God.

What if they didn’t wait like Jesus asked?  Could the disciples have done what they did without the Holy Spirit?  Can we?

I know we lead busy lives, but what if the disciples said to Jesus, “I can’t give you a full forty, but I can be there Tuesdays and Fridays, but I’ll have to leave early Friday . . .”

I’m not a good wait-er  . . . it’s a severe discipline for me to linger.  I didn’t  used to be like that, so I’m suspicious that it’s a sign of what’s going on in a lot of lives.  I’m not alone in this struggle.  So, what’s the answer?  Could it be we have to die to self?  That’s not a term I hear these days.  Could it be our lives are out-of-order if there is no time to wait upon God? Certainly, God isn’t behind that.

Do we hold on to our problems because we haven’t sat long enough with Him?  Do we rush in, dump our prayers, and leave?  What if He had something to say?

I’m writing this from a place of deep conviction, not scolding.  Believe me, I’m as busy as the next gal, but I hear Him saying to us that He wants to teach us “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

Is it possible there is so much mixture, so much flesh in the church movements of today that we are missing His heart?  What do you say?

 

 

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