The Greatest of These is Love

I wonder if faith that hasn’t been tested is truly genuine faith.  It’s so easy to think casually about faith when you think you don’t need it—when everyone is healthy, finances are in good order, relationships are stable.  But then something happens that threatens your little secure world, and you are thrown off balance.  It’s not that you don’t trust God, but you don’t understand what He is doing, and you’re not sure how to lay hold of the faith that you need.

So I have been doing just that, wrestling before the Lord about how to lay hold of that faith.  Mark and I are going through some testing in the area of our provision.  I want to come out of this testing, as it says in the first chapter of James, mature and complete, not lacking anything.  I want to get it right.  But that has the scent of performance in it, that old bugaboo that comes back to haunt me.  Then God in his kindness showed me there is something greater, something right in front of me that I’m not seeing.

Everyone is familiar with “the love chapter,” I Corinthians 13.  I had even memorized it at one time, but I haven’t understood the scope of it.  I can do many good things for God, but if they aren’t motivated by love, Paul says nothing is gained.  He says if I have the faith to move mountains but don’t have love, I am nothing.  Those words penetrate the soul, and they have gotten my attention.  I see that faith and love are inextricably connected, that faith is the fruit of love, loving God and believing that God loves me.

How could I have missed this?  Since the Lord told me that what is coming next in my life will require greater faith, I have been diligently in the Word, wanting to learn everything God has to say about it, as if I could learn how to possess it.  But then the realization came over me like a flash of light–I have already been through trials much harder than this one.  When my former husband died, it came out of nowhere.  I didn’t study about faith to prepare for it.  All I had been doing was pursuing God and loving Him.  When the time of testing came, the faith was there. I was able to stand because I knew my God loved me.  All the faith I needed in that moment Jesus supplied.

I could not have moved to Texas and left my precious family if I didn’t believe God loved me and would work it all for good.  Was it hard?  Of course, but not as hard as I thought it would be because God met me here.  Yes, I do miss them, and sometimes I’m sad, feeling like I’m missing out on my grandchildren’s lives.  But that doesn’t happen on the scale that I thought it would.  The Lord has given me what I need most, Himself.  He is everywhere in my life as He was (and is) in Arkansas.  He is in my new friends, our life group, our church, and my marriage, knitting Mark and me together in a deeper way.

I don’t think I have ever truly grasped this truth about faith.  I have had a distorted view. I have been searching out how to have greater faith, and God has shown me the answer is greater love.  I was overcome with emotion as God revealed this to me, just at the thought of how much He loves me, that He actually chose me to be his child. There is no reason that I could know this except for God’s grace.  I can honestly thank God for testing because I know He loves me, and He always proves Himself faithful.

I know as I get up from this writing and go about my daily business, my passion in this moment will fade, but the truth of what God has shown me will stand.  And now I’m burdened for my sisters and brothers out there, many that we see in our home for ministry, who don’t understand how much God loves them.  Oh, the mercy of God, to open my eyes and give me His heart for others.

Thank you, Lord.  I say yes; tenderize my heart for your children.  As I am learning to abide in you, my oasis, let your love flow through me to those you place in my life who need to know your love.  Jesus, I don’t have the words.  I just ask you to keep me on your path, the narrow path that is rooted in your love.  Amen.

But now these three remain:  faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

I Have Found My Oasis

Where do I begin?  I haven’t written in quite some time.  Of course, I journal most every day.  But I’ve been waiting….waiting on the coming oasis that I wrote about last time.  And I have found it!  Oh, the inexpressible faithfulness of God!  How to describe it….you must experience it for yourself.  It is for everyone who knows Jesus.  But testimonies we hear of others build our faith, so I will be obedient to continue to tell my story.

One year ago my daughter Shawn and I were able to attend the Woman Conference at New Life Church, my home church at the time, in Conway, Arkansas.  It was amazing.  Lisa Bevere was our speaker, and I remember her main theme centered around being courageous in Christ.  It was the first time we had worshiped to Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) (Hillsong United, 2013).  And I remember clearly during the chorus, the Spirit spoke to me. The chorus of Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) is this:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,                                                                Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me.                                               Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,                                                              And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”

As I worshiped with all my heart, the Spirit spoke to me and told me something was about to happen in our lives that would take great faith to walk through, but that He would be with us.  When I returned home that evening, Mark was sitting on the couch starting at the T.V.  He doesn’t watch T.V.  It was then he told me he had gotten a call from our Christian financial broker.  Having made a commitment to diversification, he had violated his own standard without our knowledge and made an unwise investment decision, and our money, along with that of the other investors, had been stolen.

We had been living on the interest on that investment to fund our ministry, Hope Preserved, since 2010.  When the Lord called Mark to this ministry, He told Him that He would have to leave his job, but that He would provide for us.  A couple of months later, his department where he worked downsized, and he was laid off.  We tried to wisely use what funds we had, and they were sustaining us. Now what we had to live on was a limited amount of money in savings and a small rent house which we soon sold.  But God said He would provide, and He is reminding us to exercise our faith in His promise.

This happened before we had ever been called to Waco, first to teach a ministry workshop (that came a couple of months after this), and then two month-long visits earlier this year to do ministry and continue to seek God’s will.  We were led to Antioch Community Church, and taken in warmly, invited to lunches and people’s homes and finally settling into an amazing life group of Christ-followers.  Through much prayer of our own and prophetic words from various persons, both in Waco and Arkansas, it became clear we were to move here.

God was leading us here to Waco to plant this ministry in a spiritual climate where we are learning humility and sacrifice and community in a way we hadn’t experienced. Precious, broken people continue to come for help, more than we can handle, but the Lord has brought someone forward who wants to learn the ministry and take some of the load.  We are able to bring some of these persons in need to our life group for prayer and words of encouragement, and our comrades are always ready to help.

Now exactly a year after the Woman Conference, Mark and I attended the World Mandate Conference hosted by Antioch Church at Baylor University.  Since we have been at this church, we have learned about God’s heart for the nations.  I am truly seeing that there is a world past my front door in middle-class America, a world for which Jesus suffered and died.

Worshiping at World Mandate with thousands of others, the Spirit reminded me of His faithfulness throughout my life. It was like a video playing in my mind of all the times the Lord had been there to sustain me, from my childhood through raising my children, through the death of my former husband and the years of widowhood, through the move to Texas and the difficulty in leaving children and grandchildren.  I was moved to tears.

And then as we began to worship to Oceans, and the Spirit spoke to me again. What did the Spirit tell me?  He said something like this,”You thought your life was winding down. Everything you had envisioned yourself doing has changed, and you haven’t known exactly where you fit in.  But you have only begun to live, really live, for me.  I love you, my daughter, and I have chosen you to be a part of my great adventure.  It will take great faith, but I will be with you. You need only to stay close to me.”

I have been walking toward the oasis, my dead branches cut off, fruitful ones pruned back, waiting on the Lord to show me what it is.  I have found it.  It is Christ!  He is the vine, my life source (John 15), and I am soaking in His Spirit.  You may be thinking, “Didn’t she already know Jesus?”  Yes, of course.  But He is showing me there is much more for me ahead, more than I could have imagined.  And I don’t have to figure it out or worry about it.  All I have to do is abide, live connected to the vine.  When we are connected to Him, the ultimate outcome of every trial will be greater faith.

Jesus, yes, I understand.  I get it, and with your help every day, I will surrender.  How could I not?  You are the lover of my soul, and you are faithful.  Forgive me for trying to make my life work in my own strength.  Fill me with your Spirit.  Submerge me in your love.  I want nothing more than to live for you the rest of my days.  I won’t try to figure out where we’re going or what we’re going to do.  I simply want to abide in you.  Rest and peace.  Freedom.  Life abundant!  Yes, Lord!

God bless you, and thank you for reading.  I know it is a very long post!

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…..I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain (abide) in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-2, 5.

An Oasis is Waiting

“You, God, are my God,

earnestly I seek you;

I thirst for you,

My whole being longs for you,

in a dry and parched land

where there is no water.”  Psalm 63:1

 

I see myself walking through the desert,

dead branches cut away, fruitful branches pruned.

Yet I have peace.

Stripped down to the root,

I know I am still protected.

He wants me to know He is my sufficiency.

So I keep walking.

I am thirsty but no longer satisfied by the trappings of the world.

There is an oasis ahead waiting for me,

a watering place, a place of refreshment.

I want to reach it, so I keep moving forward.

I want to be submerged in it.

It’s as though I’m going back into the womb,

and my umbilical cord is the Spirit.

I know I will emerge forever changed.

 

Father God, keep me on this path.

Show me how to get there.

I want to know you more intimately.

You have taken me away for yourself.

This I know is true.  Have your way in me.  Amen.

 

“I have seen you in your sanctuary

 and beheld your power and your glory.

 Because your love is better than life,

 my lips will glorify you.

 I will be satisfied as with the richest of foods.

 With singing lips my mouth will praise you.”

 Psalm 63:2-5.

 

The Answer to My Question

SMALL STRAWS IN A SOFT WIND by MARSHA BURNS, August 5, 2014

Growth is the epitome of incremental change, and your desire for spiritual growth requires change.  The only thing holding you back is your resistance.  You can’t keep things the way they are and grow at the same time.  Something has to give, and that would be your will.  Be willing to let go of everything that has outlived its usefulness in your environment, says the Lord.

Philippians 3:13  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.

Moving away from family for the first time as a mom and grandmother has brought me to a place of wrestling with God about who I am now.  What is logical and reasonable to my mind doesn’t fit with the resistance in my heart.  This working-it-out process with God has been painful, but He has been merciful, as He always is, in showing me truth about myself.

Born into a world that is controlled by our adversary, we begin our lives learning how to survive, to force our way in and try to find the answer to the question our hearts want to know:  “Why am I here?  Do I matter?”  We see ourselves in the faces of others and in their responses to us.  And there begins the tension.  If only we could know and accept at the early age of infancy that we are born to die:  To die to self-interest, to striving, to making our own way.  We are born to die to flesh and live in spirit, in His Spirit, in freedom.

But it is for mercy that we are not allowed to be spiritually reborn in this way, for He wants our hearts, by choice of our will, to be given to Him that He might live through us.  Is anything valuable without sacrifice?  His sacrifice on the cross proved we are valuable to Him.  The willing sacrifice of our lives proves our love to Him.  And then we can go home.  Everything stripped away:  Self-protection, futility, strife.  Our souls are now satisfied.

Weekend before last we made a quick trip home to do some repair work on the home we have for sale, and naturally I wanted to get in all the time I could with kids and grandchildren.  But it was stressful and unsatisfying.  Spending time with the Lord this week, He showed me that I was forcing my way in, frantically wanting answers to the questions in my heart:  “Are you glad to see me?  Do you still love me?  Am I still important?”  Again, tension.

I’m genuinely thankful and excited to be on this new path the Lord so clearly has led Mark and me to take, but I can’t walk down this path and keep everything the same.  I’m not an in-town grandmother anymore.  My family can’t just drop over to my house.  I can’t meet them for walks with the children.  I can’t bring them all together under my roof.  I have to let go and embrace the new path.  But I am still a mother, still a grandmother, still me.  I am just realizing how much of my identity was wrapped up in being loved and accepted by them and a part of their lives.

God spoke intimately to me through Galatians 5:16-18 in The Message:  “My counsel is this.  Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit.  Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness.  For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as a free spirit is incompatible with selfishness.”  Sinful self-interest.  That hit me between the eyes.  My frantic need to be loved and affirmed was all about me, which is pride, and it put me into bondage to self.

I started writing this blog over a year ago after the death of my mother.  Sitting with her through the night as her life ebbed away stirred in me a passion to find out the answer to this question:  Who did God create me to be?  And now I know.  It’s so simple that I can’t believe I didn’t see it then:  His.  I was created to be His, nothing more, nothing less, a dearly loved child of God.

Embracing the truth that my identity is in Him will bring freedom and give me the ability to love not for what I can receive, but for what I can give.  And though my interaction with family will be different living away, it will be good, and it will be healthy, and it will satisfy my heart.  Lord Jesus, I still have so much to learn about being yours.  Help me be willing to see myself as you do.  You are the one who knows me best.  Amen.

 

Following Jesus to Texas

What do you do when Jesus says, “Follow me”?  His command is quite literal, but most of us live our lives unwittingly telling Jesus to follow us.  “Lord, follow me while I buy a new house or pursue this business venture or plan this vacation.  Protect me from making a bad decision.  Catch me when I fall.  And thank you so much for blessing me.”  It is the way I’ve lived most of my life, not wanting to truly believe that He requires me to give up everything.

The problem is we forget God is sovereign, and truly we think we are, not so much in a conscious way, but we think we are in control.  As a result, we take on all kinds of stress by trying to make our lives work according to the standards of our culture.  The Lord brought the following verses to mind in rapid succession this morning:

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  James 4:14-15.

You are not your own; you were bought with a price.  I Corinthians 6:19-20.

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “No one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come, eternal life.”  Luke 18:29-30.

So teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.        Psalm 90:12.

Giving up everything means giving up control.  It means holding things loosely.  It means living with a kingdom mindset, meaning everything belongs to God, including our very lives, and is to be used for His purposes and His glory.  It means simply trusting Him and believing Him when He says He will take care of us.

One week from today we will be moving into a duplex in Hewitt, Texas, just outside of Waco.  Our house has not sold yet.  Our children and grandchildren are all here in Conway or Little Rock, except for one daughter in school in Memphis.

My Mother's Day present from daughter Shawn.

My Mother’s Day present from daughter Shawn.

Our friends are here.  Our ministry was birthed here.  We are trusting God for our very provision, because Jesus has said, “Follow me here.”  If we had the slightest doubt, we wouldn’t be going.  But He has given us loads of confirmation, so much that not to go would be disobedience.

These words by Oswald Chambers describe it best:

“If a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he must risk everything by his leap in the dark. In the spiritual realm, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold on to or believe through common sense, and leap by faith into what He says. Once you obey, you will immediately find that what He says is as solidly consistent as common sense.

By the test of common sense, Jesus Christ’s statements may seem mad, but when you test them by the trial of faith, your findings will fill your spirit with the awesome fact that they are the very words of God. Trust completely in God, and when He brings you to a new opportunity of adventure, offering it to you, see that you take it.”  Excerpt From: Chambers, Oswald. “My Utmost for His Highest, Enhanced Edition,” May 30.

Jesus, the time has come.  Faith for the journey-that’s all I ask.  Thank you for trusting Mark and me with this assignment.  You have blessed us so much already.  I can hear the words to Misty Edwards’ song in my head right now, “The point of life is you.”  (Forerunner Music, International House of Prayer.)  Have your way, Lord Jesus.  We love you.  Amen.

Here is an interview with Misty Edwards you will enjoy: http://www.cbn.com/tv/2286453678001

Not that I have already obtained all this or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:12-14.

Climbing Out of the Pit

Life is a series of peaks and valleys.  At any given time, you are either on the way up or on the way down.  I’m finding that the higher the mountaintops, the deeper the valleys.  In the mountaintop experiences, I’m close to God and everything is right in my world.  No problem seems insurmountable.  With God, all things are possible.  I am more than a conqueror.

When I start the descent into the valley, the feelings of loneliness and desolation began to come on me with greater and greater intensity.  Having surrendered all my props, the things of the world that used to fill me, I can find no comfort.  I know I should run to the Comforter, but I am too paralyzed to move.  I am in a trap of the enemy’s making, but I have walked into it willingly.  His lies pound me, stealing all peace, all hope.  There is a haze over my eyes that makes it hard to see truth, yet I know the truth is still there.

In only two weeks’ time, it felt like my relationship with God was gone.  I knew that wasn’t true, but I had no desire to go to my secret place to find Him.  I had trouble remembering what it felt like to be in His arms.  I had had a stomach bug that lasted a week, leaving me feeling weak and vulnerable.  Following this our dog Chelsea was lost, and Mark had hip surgery.  Time was frozen as everything normal in our lives stopped.  Family and friends rallied to find Chelsea, but to no avail.  Watching Mark diligently searching, even though on crutches, and seeing his grief, I sank deeper and deeper into a pit, not able to get out.  At these times nothing makes sense in my world.

Finally on Sunday morning, I took a faltering step toward Him, uttered a very simple prayer, and opened my favorite devotional, just to read a few words, climbing slowly on my knees to get back up.  Then as the worship began in the Sunday morning church service, there was an explosion in my spirit-He is there!  He have always been there.  I am the one that moved away.  I am coming back.  I hear Him say in my spirit, “It’s okay, child.  You can’t lose our relationship.  I’m only as far away as your weakest cry for help.  Be still now.  Be at rest.  There is only grace.”  Restored!  Not because of anything I’ve done, but because of who He is.

Lord, thank you for the pain in the depth of the valley, for not letting me escape into the world and its comforts, for making me face myself.  Thank you for allowing me to live in the black-and-white zone.  There is no neutral.  Jesus, I would rather dwell in the deepest pit and feel the pain of not being in your presence than to be satisfied in this world without you.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

Drawing_Desk

Following In His Footsteps

What does it mean to be sent by Jesus?  Are all believers sent?  In John Chapter 20, Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection.  Twice he told them, “Peace be with you!”  And then he said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  But where was he sending them?  We know that they began preaching and witnessing in Jerusalem but were soon scattered to different regions because of persecution.

And what was he sending them to do?  In Matthew 28:19-20, known as the Great Commission, Jesus says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, 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 surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The question I was pondering about as I read John 20 this morning is “If the Father sent Jesus and Jesus sent his disciples, am I also sent, a believer in 2014?”  As I prayed the Spirit brought the following passage to mind that deeply touched my heart.  It is Romans 10:13-15.  “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?”  The answer clearly is “Yes, I am.”

Our mission field is the place to which God has called us.  It is the children God has entrusted to our care.  It is our workplaces, our circles of friends, our churches–yes, many sitting in church do not know Jesus.  It is the neighbor across the street.  It may be serving as a missionary in another country.  II Timothy 4:2 says we should be ready to preach the Word in season and out of season.  I love this quote from my NIV Essentials Study Bible: “How did Jesus deliver his urgent life-saving message to everyone in the world?  The answer is one sandal-shod footstep at a time, village by village, person by person.”

This means tuning up our spiritual ears by spending time in God’s presence and letting him fill us so we have something to give out.  It means listening to the Holy Spirit and speaking when he says to speak.  And it means being willing to go where he sends us.  Why does it seem so hard to do this?  I read long ago that “The fear of man is the love of self,” and that resonated with me.  We are so afraid of being exposed and rejected.  A pastor just last Sunday brought this idea to another level.  He said, “The fear of man is greater than the fear of death.”  Very thought-provoking.

We are back in Texas this month to do ministry and continue to seek God for direction about whether he is sending us here to live.  I’m sitting this morning in our little borrowed RV, looking out the back window at a field full of little tree saplings and several beautiful horses.  It’s a peaceful place to sit and reflect.  We must make time where we sit quietly with the Lord.  The most important thoughts we will ever have are thoughts about God.  Learning who he is and knowing his great love for us defines our very lives.  The enemy will do everything he can to keep God a Sunday-morning-only experience.

Please pray with me:  Jesus, it seems difficult to actually put into practice sharing with others about you.  Help us to open our hearts and drop our self-protection and see the world through your eyes, people made in your image that so desperately need you.  We commit our lives afresh to you today.  Help us to abide in you, for apart from you we can do nothing.  Open our eyes to see the world around us and make us willing to be sent wherever you would call us.  Jesus, we love you.  Amen.

The Upside Down Kingdom

In the kingdom of God, everything is upside down.  The least is the greatest (Luke 9:46-48).  The greatest in the kingdom is servant of all (Matthew 20:26).  Strength comes from weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).  Foolishness trumps wisdom (I Cor. 1:27-28).  Life comes from death (John 11:25).  Why is this so?  Everything of the flesh must be crucified and the life of Christ imparted into our spirit man.  Anything that remains of the flesh is pride, the hallmark of the enemy, who was cast out of heaven for this original sin.

Pride is deceptive.  We most often think of arrogance or boasting when we think of pride, but pride takes many different forms.  Pride says, “I’ve got this,” or “Everything depends on me.”  Pride also masquerades as low self-esteem and says, “I’m a failure.”  Pride is focus on self and says essentially, “I will be my own god.”  In John 8:28, Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be, and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.

Jesus was fully God but he submitted to the Father and humbled himself, even to death on the cross. (Philippians 2:8)  When he spoke his last words, “It is finished” and gave up his life, it was then that the enemy was defeated. First comes humility; then comes power.  Humility is utter dependence on Jesus Christ and his life imparted by the Holy Spirit.  Only then do we have the power to live in victory and freedom.

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that I have come to set you free.  Stand firm, then, and don’t let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” This is the life verse the Lord gave me several years ago. God has continued to show me layer upon layer of how to apply this Word to my life. For instance, I know I’m living in slavery when I try to “work” to be good enough, trying to earn acceptance by others and my worth to God. I know I’m living in slavery when I try to protect myself for fear that I will be exposed as – what?  (Insert your greatest fear, or core lie, here.)  This is the subtlety of pride, thinking “I must take care of myself .”

Jesus paid the price for our sins with his blood so that we could be one with him and the Father and also other believers.  He prays this for us in John 17:20-21: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their (the disciples) message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  The God of the universe both created us and sent his Son to die for us so we could be one with him?  Incredible!  And that’s not all.

He calls us to live holy lives, set apart for him, but Jesus knew we could not do this in our own strength.  So he has given us the Holy Spirit, and by his power we are able to walk in the light as we submit to him.  Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”  (Luke 9:23-25, NLT)   By surrendering to him daily, we become free to become who we really are.

Let go, let go, let go!  When we hang on and try to control our lives, we miss living the lives the Lord has planned for us. Claim the words of Paul in Galatians 2:20 and declare them:  “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave Himself for me.”  Let the Spirit of God realign your thoughts to “kingdom-thinking.”  As the world loses its grip on you and the kingdom of God becomes your reality, your life will be turned upside down, and you will be part of the great adventure with the Lord Jesus!

Pray with me:  Father, you created me in your image as a unique individual to fulfill your purposes. I know apart from Jesus I can do nothing.  Help me to surrender to you daily so that I’m led by your Spirit. I want to see through your eyes, love with your heart, and not miss my life, living as you created me, to reflect your glory.  All praise and glory to you, my King! Amen.

(Next post in Season of Singleness coming soon as well as Refined Bible study!)

Letting His Light Shine Through a Fragile Clay Pot

It’s a beautiful, spring-like day in Texas.  I had a wonderful long walk with my precious Chloe-dog and my praise music.  God directed my thoughts during my walk:  On my best day when everything is right in my world, there is still a place in my heart that is ever-seeking.  On a not-so-good day, it may expose itself as an offense or an emotion.  But most of the time, it is just an ache.  I know whose place that belongs to–it is my Lord’s.  Sometimes I actually have a desire to feel the ache because I know He is drawing me near.  He finally has me at a place where I’m not striving, wearing myself out to try to fill that place myself.

Gratitude is a wonderful thing, and a thankful heart should be exercised and expressed at all times.  But to have everything and still feel our need is a good thing.  Whether you are living in deprivation in a third-world country or a comfy life in the good ole USA makes no difference.  You can have everything or nothing that this world has to offer, but if you don’t have Christ, you are without hope.  He is the only One who can satisfy the human heart.  God created man this way.

Sitting in this little RV in the Texas countryside, Jesus is taking me on a journey inward.  I asked myself when I have been the closest, the most intimate with God.  Immediately the revelation came to me once again, for I had already been aware of this.  The darkest moment of my life, when my former husband died, was also my most intimate time with the Lord.  Why?  Because I had no ability to put up any defenses or rely on any “props” to substitute for God.

Paralyzed with grief, the Holy Spirit mercifully turned my thoughts to God and brought me a surreal comfort.  With zero self-awareness, completely surrendered to the Spirit, I was able to speak in front of a few hundred people at his funeral and honor him, bringing praise to God, and speaking defeat to the enemy.  I can’t capture into words what this was like.  It wasn’t really me speaking, just a surrendered vessel.  It was indeed holy ground.  I am so humbled by His grace that He would do this through me.

Flash forward to my wedding day with Mark, the happiest day of my life!  My daughter had commented that she had never seen me smile with my teeth showing in pictures before I met Mark.  I had a thing about that because of some dental problems when I was a child and teenager.  Oh, okay; I’ll tell you.  I had to wear a stainless steel cap on my front tooth until I was 16!  Great for a young girl’s self-esteem, huh?  But in my wedding pictures with Mark, I am grinning from ear to ear.

Once again, walking down the aisle in the quaint little wedding chapel, I was not aware of myself at all.  I was so full of joy.  We had written our own vows, and the Spirit enabled me to speak every personal word to Mark in front of about 50 guests, words that honored God and the wonderful man He had chosen for me.  I was stunned to see our pictures later with my beautiful smiles.  How I praise God!  He is there in our joys and our sorrows, just as He is there in everyday life, if we will only let Him show Himself.

In 2 Corinthians 4:6-7, Paul writes,  “For God who said, ‘Let the light shine in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.  That makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”  The Word says that God is the potter; we are the clay.  If we will only surrender to the Spirit each day, He will fashion us so that He is filling that empty place, that the world will see not “us,” but Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Oh, yes, Lord.  That’s what I want.  You know how fragile I am.  I can’t make it happen on my own.  But you have told me I am a little potted plant in this clay pot of flesh.  I need the nourishment of your Word and the water of the Spirit and the light of the Son to grow and flourish for you.  Let it be so.  I’ll welcome the ache every day if it will draw me closer to you so I can be fed.  And I humbly pray that someone out there who is seeking would know you, the one true God, because you chose to shine through me.  Amen.

Crossing Over

I see a bridge, a swinging bridge made of some kind of rope like you see in the old Tarzan movies.  It connects two cliffs.  I look at the distance to the other side, and I know I cannot safely cross it unless I throw off all extra weight.  So I stand on one cliff looking at the other side, paralyzed.  Jesus, what on earth are you asking me to do?  You’ve taken me so far; I trust you.  It’s myself that I don’t trust.  Home?  No problem.  Possessions?  No problem.  We’ve dealt with that for a while now, and I have surrendered.  But family……..well, that’s another story.

In my post “An Audience of One,” I saw myself on a stage surrounded by “props,” all the things that made me feel safe and acceptable.  These were by no means just physical things, but belief systems–my self-protection, the things I need to make myself okay.  Without my “props,” the world is a scary place.  But I know in my heart of hearts that life with my props is even more scary, because in relying on them I will miss the will of God for my life.  I will not find my true self, the one Jesus said I could find only by dying to myself.

I felt the Lord speaking to me as I studied Luke 14:15-23, The Parable of the Great Banquet. Jesus tells the story of a man who prepared a banquet and invited many guests. He then sent his servant out to tell those who had been invited to come, for everything was ready.  But they all began to make excuses.  One said, “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it.  Please excuse me.”  Another said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out.  Please excuse me.”  Still another said, “I just got married, so I can’t come.”

When the servant reported all this back to the master, he became angry and said, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.”  After he had done so, there was still room.  So the master told his servant to go out on the roads and country lanes and bring still more.  And then said, “I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.”

I see these excuses as being descriptive of some of the “props:” we have in our lives. The invited ones simply didn’t want to come.  They felt no need to come.  They were quite happy with their homes and jobs and significant others and had no interest in coming to the banquet.  They were so filled with the things of this world that they were not hungry for what Jesus had to offer.  But the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame had no such means in this world to be satisfied.  They knew their need and were happy to come.

That’s why Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3), said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  You are blessed when you know you need Jesus.  You can have many blessings of all kinds in this world that God has given you to enjoy, for He loves to give good gifts to His children.  But if they eclipse your need for Christ alone, then they have become idols.  Yes, even family.

So I stand at the bridge and I wonder if Jesus is going to ask me to cross it.  I long to serve him, but can’t it be from this side of the bridge?  My children and grandbabies are here.  Aren’t I supposed to be living out this stage of my life settling in and reaping the rewards of a rich family life?  Don’t they need me?  The gentle whisper of the Spirit speaks to me in my heart.  “Yes and no.  No, they don’t need you.  They need me.  But yes, they need the woman I created you to be. They won’t remember that you changed their diapers.  But if you seek hard after me, they will see me in you and remember a mom and grandmother who passed down a godly inheritance.”

I’m sitting in a little RV in another state, the first leg of our journey in obedience to the Lord to minister and to seek His will on whether he would have us relocate here.  Either way, He has brought us into new relationships and broadened the scope of the “land” that He has plainly given us as a calling.  And either way, He is asking us to “throw off everything,” especially the idolatry of self, of relying on anything besides Him for security, and to trust Him completely.  He may not ask me to cross this bridge. as far as moving away from home, but I know He is asking me to be willing.

Jesus, sometimes I feel like I’m too old or it’s too late in my life for such change.  But in December 2009, you told me you were doing “a new thing” in my life, and you gave me Isaiah 43:18-19 for the new year in 2010.  Shortly after that I met Mark, and a wonderful new chapter in my life began.  Father, I am living proof that you work all things for good to those who love you and are called according to your purpose (Romans 8:28).  Lord, I want to be willing.  Make me ready for whatever your perfect, holy will is for us.  Whether it’s crossing this particular bridge or a different one, I know in Christ it will be amazing.