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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A Table For Two

dark clouds1I sat on the porch swing on the edge of morning, bundled up against the cold.  A heavy bank of clouds, barely visible through the fog and dark, stretched across the horizon.  It looked as if I was surrounded by a dark mountain range.

It made me think of a time at Watson Homestead Retreat Center.  After the evening meetings, I walked outside and stood in the middle of the expansive valley behind the main buildings.  It was very late, and the only sound I could hear was the wind.  Suddenly, I had a vision of a table set in the middle of that valley with only two chairs.

I felt as if the Lord was giving me a promise of intimacy for the next season of my life, which has become this season of my life.  I was uncomfortable standing in the dark surrounded by woods, but Psalm 23:5 came to me.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.”

Who wants to sit down and eat when you’re surrounded with enemies?  But the Lord showed me, He wants to prepare a table and let the enemy watch.

On my journey as a widow, there have been many times when I’ve stood in a dark place with only a promise of light to hold on to. Many times, it felt as if He’d left me alone to face an encroaching darkness.  But again and again, He proved my fears were wrong. He’d lead me to the table set for two.  There are places we have to go in life where we can’t bring others.  I needed my friends, but they could not help me with what I had to do on my own, with Jesus.

Our Shepherd will never-ever leave you to face the dark alone.   He’ll give you pastures of rest, and restore your soul.  Even through the valley of the shadow of death, He never leaves your side, never fails to lead.  His name is Comfort.  And when He asks you to sit in the presence of your enemies, it is because He wants to anoint your head with oil, to soothe your mind.

My swing was my table in the wilderness, He’d meet me there.  Even if I didn’t hear a word, or find any inspiration at all . . . I knew He was sitting with me.  

My husband didn’t like to talk while he ate, because it would trigger a spasm in his throat and he’d begin to choke. At first, I’d chatter at him, but then I learned to enjoy eating in silence and realized it really said a lot.  You know you have a deep friendship when you can sit quietly and not have to be talking.

In this season of my life,  my fellowship with the Lord is mostly in silence and worship.  I often have no words, no prayers,  just a knowing that we are sitting at the same table.

 

 

 

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Getting Away

ocean 2Getting away . . . for a few days, a week, two . . . is so healing.

I just got home from a week with my dear friend in Florida.  I haven’t been near the ocean in probably thirty years.  Besides being with my friend, the best part was walking along the beach with the ocean waves crashing at my feet.

The power of the ocean is so incomprehensible.  Several times waves almost pulled my feet out from under me, retreating with dizzying swirls.  I felt so small. Joyous. Humbled.  All I could say was: thank you . . . thank you.

You are so much more powerful than we can understand, Lord.

ocean 3Stepping free of the grey, damp weather – even for a couple days – was amazing. The sun felt so healing. I carefully clocked the time I was exposed, because I know how vulnerable I am.  Again, I hummed my gratitude: thank you, Lord . . . thank you.

Your healing power is terrifying, and without which I can not live. So freely given, so poorly understood. 

It felt good to be in my cozy home again – even with all the dog hair and muddy Oden prints everywhere.  Home, and I whisper: thank you, Lord . . . thanks you.

Sometimes you take all these blessings for granted until your surroundings change for a little while and you return, even to the stress of life . . . it’s the blessing of God.

Forgive me for taking anything, everything, for granted, Lord.

This morning, as I paused on my swing with my Bible, I opened to John 6:33.

“For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world . . . I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

ocean 1My friend took me to a Goodwill store in West Palm Beach.  We past Mercedes, Jagquire, and even a car she said cost 500,000.  We were in the area where Billionaires live.  The wealth was unimaginable.  At the Goodwill she pointed out a pair of shoes that cost $5,000 brand new.  You could buy it there for only $800!  What a deal?

The clothes were beautiful, but probably only worn once.  It was interesting for about ten minutes and then I didn’t want to be there anymore.  Wealth is so deceiving.  The world says. “I’ll be happy when I have those shoes, that house, that dress in that size.”  We were wandering in Plastic Surgery heaven.   Skinny women, with big breasts, and dogs wearing collars that cost as much as my old car.

The wealth didn’t impress me.  It doesn’t make you happy, fill your soul, feed your spirit. I came home to my beautiful, tilting, old farmhouse, with my constantly shedding beast, and I laid down on my $300 couch as thought: Ahhhh . . . Home.

Sometimes the best part of getting away is coming home.

 

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Today’s Miracle

porch snow 1It was so quiet today on the swing.  Heavy snow blanketed everything providing an insulated feel to the world.  There was only a couple brave travelers on the road, and  the returning rumble of snowplows.

My world was at peace.  No where to go, nothing pressing, just a sweet silence.

The pipes have been frozen in my baseboard heating for the past three days, so I depended on the wood stove and a little blue space heater. Twice since yesterday, I emptied the wood-box my brother built for me.  There’s something so satisfying about a wood fire.  It makes me nostalgic.

Bill and our boys used to work all summer splitting and stacking wood.  We heated completely with wood back then.  And when the boys were really little, we’d give them a sponge bath in front of the wood stove because there was often ice on the bathroom wall.

I learned how to cook on top of the wood stove, too.  I’d simmer soup all day so it would be ready for supper.  Bill would come stomping in the kitchen door, kicking snow off his shoes, and then sit in front of the fire to unwind from teaching all day.

oden snow 1It’s tempting to say, “those were the days,” but that wouldn’t be true.  For Today is the day the Lord has given, and I’ve learned that to long for another time only blinds me to the miracle He has saved for today.

Do you know what today’s miracles are for you?

Perhaps my miracle today was watching Oden romp in the snow while I sat bundled on my swing.

oden 3Perhaps it was the abundance of peace, and absence of tears, as I wrote about the days leading up to Bill’s death.

Perhaps, it is realizing God’s peace is an insulating protection,  like the heavy snow that hushes the world around us.

God bless you as you look for today’s miracles.

 

 

 

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Loving Oden

oden in studioI used to start my day with coffee, my Bible and the Lord, but something has happened, an invasion of sorts.  I can’t blame this interruption on the devil.  It’s clearly my fault. I’m a sucker for big brown eyes.

Mega-pooch.  The prodigious pup.  105 lb., eight months old, still growing, Odie.  Sometimes his name is “Oh-ODEN!” depending upon his recent behavior.  He not only requires vast quantities of time, food, training and new things to shred, he requires a ton of patience.

oden at back door(take note how high the mud is smeared on the door!)

I’m not sure why I’ve been singled out for repeated lessons on  forbearance.  I thought I was patient. Considering how many times I’ve circled this mountain you’d think I’d have it by now.

I’ve done the mother-in-law forbearance piece.  The invasion of seven grandkids, plus their friends, all on the same day piece.  Then, there was the Shitzu, who had more clout in the family than I did, piece.

Now, my new assignment in forbearance  is living with the largest German Shepherd the vet has ever seen.  All pets need patience and understanding in the puppy stage,  but living with a horse in your house requires a whole new level of patience.

I can imagine what the neighbors think when they watch me being pulled across the back fields by an overgrown fur ball.  I’m sure they shake their heads and say, “What was she thinking getting such a big dog at her age.”  Then there was my friend who announced, “That dog is going to kill you!”

It’s not that I don’t like dogs, I just vowed to never have another one.  (Take note: God doesn’t like it when we make vows!)  My problem is that I love my son and I’ve never been very good at saying no, despite the number of books I’ve read on healthy boundaries.

The lesson for me is:  if you’re going to say “Yes” to something, you’d better be sure you don’t complain about it later. (note to wives) To quote my mother-in-law, “Marjorie, you made him love you.” That means: when the dog is naughty, it’s my fault.

Oden -chew chairOden has pushed the boundaries – he charges through them. And he doesn’t delicately nibble on things like my last dog. It’s not the typical sock and shoe,  he has a taste for furniture and wood molding.

All the molding in my studio, around the doors, and corners has been gnawed.  Entire shoes – left in the hallway by visitors.  Throw rugs, (later throw-up rugs).  I’ve bought “indestructible” toys – that aren’t,  and three dog beds – now consumed, making foam rubber flecked poop.  (oops, I said, “poop” if the youngest grand-boys heard me say that it would automatically trigger a round of  their famous Poop-Song.)

Oden - Play?I like to read in the morning – but he ate my last book.  So, instead of lounging over coffee with the Lord, I have coffee with Oden who’s waited all night to play ball.

I’m not neglecting my devotions, I’m more dependent on Him than ever.  As a matter of fact, I’m holding on white-knuckled to the grace of God to build the forbearance I need,  without complaining, while this “puppy?” continues growing.

Believe me, though I kid about him, he is fast becoming my next-to-best friend.

 

 

 

 

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