Crushing Fear

This is a little different for me. The Lord has really been stirring up some things in me and I have really felt pressed to share them. It is intended to bring life and peace to you. I had to do it in two parts because I had been enjoying a bit too much of our beautiful and pollen-filled weather here in South Carolina and started to cough as a result. 😁 Let me hear from you about it. If you want to see more content like this, please like it and subscribe to our new YouTube page, Wholehearted You. More will be coming soon. Much love!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plant A Garden

Listen and hear my voice; Listen carefully and hear my words. Does the farmer plow all day to plant seed? Does he continually dig furrows and harrow his [after it is prepared]? When he has leveled its surface, does he not sow [the seed of] dill and scatter cumin, and plant wheat in rows, and barley in its [intended] place and [a]rye within its border? For his God instructs [him correctly] and teaches him properly. For dill is not threshed with a sharp threshing sledge,
nor is a cartwheel rolled over cumin; but dill is beaten out with a staff, and cumin with a rod. Bread grain is crushed fine, Indeed, the farmer does not continue to thresh it forever. Because the wheel of his cart and his horses eventually damage it, He does not thresh it longer. This also comes from the Lord of hosts, who has made His counsel wonderful and His wisdom great. Isaiah 28:23-29 Amplified Bible (AMP)

As the atmosphere became impregnated with tension from all the news reports last week, I heard the still, small voice beckoning me outside.  “It’s time to plant.  Today, plant a garden.”

Musing, I thought to myself, “This is so like God.”  While most of the world is thrown into chaos, the God of the universe invited me to look through a different lens.

So, I obeyed.

After grabbing my hoe, shovel, soil, and seeds, I dumped bags of manure and other things into my raised beds, mixing and spreading the soil together with the hoe until it filled the boxes.  I then shoved poles in the ground wrapping them all with chicken wire building a fence to protect the precious new growth from hungry deer.  With the soil prepared and the gate set in place, my daughter and I plotted and poked the holes, carefully depositing a seed in each indent in the fresh earth.

In this past week, I have seen the best and worst in people’s faces.

I’ve seen the wide-eyed look of panic in eyes as humanity has scrabbled in search of basic necessities.  Suspicious glances have come my way, as I ventured closer than six feet.  I’ve seen greed rise up in others who stuffed their carts full of things as the elderly stood behind them waiting their turn to forage through what was left.  Who would have imagined in a few short days, our culture would change so much or maybe it’s just unearthing what was already there.

I’ve also seen more gestures of kindness, strangers from a distance asking how you are and seemingly really meaning it, people being more open about their faith in the Lord Jesus, and a general awareness that maybe it’s time for the body of Christ to awake up from a slumbered state.  Family’s have gathered together to worship and pray. Others have reached out to neighbors who they may have never talked to before and offered a helping hand.

Quite honestly, in the past, I would have been dealing with some heavy-duty anxiety and panic attacks by now.  I won’t lie.  There have been a few moments of sucking in a deep breath, and refocusing on who God is and what He says about all this chaos.  His still, small voice has calmed my heart on many occasions, so this crisis is no different.

I’m not downplaying the fear I see in people.  I completely understand it.  It just makes my heart sad.  So many people worldwide have suddenly been thrown in to a state where everything in their lives is shaking.  It seems that for the first time in a long time, people on the whole are forced to stop and contemplate their lives.

In the preparation of the garden, there was some pulling up of weeds, and some rearranging of things that I need to place somewhere else.  In this time, I believe there are some weeds we need to pull up completely, and other things we need to put in a different place, prioritizing things differently.

Personally, God has challenged me to really look at the things I’ve put my trust in.

Quite frankly, it’s been uncomfortable, and I don’t like it.  He’s pointed out things that I have placed my trust in other than Him, made into an idol, and He is constantly refocusing my gaze back to Him.  In that process, He is bringing my heart to shalom, to peace.  I’ve felt held by Him, protected and hidden in His care.

I don’t know how far the effects of this virus will be or what repercussions it may have, but I know who holds my life in His loving hands.  I chose to believe that He is good, that this didn’t catch Him by surprise.

He’s not the author of any sickness.  He always wants to bring healing, deliverance, and help.

What the enemy meant for evil, He will turn around for our good.  Deep down inside of me, this bubbles up like a brook.  I know He’s working for our good, because He is a good, good Father. No matter what the enemy throws our way, God is bigger, stronger, and is moving through this.

Maybe this is where revival begins.  Maybe this is where awakening starts.  Maybe it will begin in our homes, with our families, worshipping together, calling and checking on our neighbors and loved ones, and walking in a supernatural peace when the world is freaking out.

Walking out this past year, without one church home, has taught me one thing for sure.  We are the church.  Everywhere I go, in every place we’ve been led to, Jesus is in me.  I am in Him.  I feel centered in that, strengthened in my faith, knowing that He is my Lord, and He is my working in our behalf.   Church is not a building.  It’s Jesus Christ in us the hope of glory!  It’s time to let that glory shine through us.

For the wide, wild-eyed ones, I want to wrap my arms around you, and speak peace to your troubled hearts.  I want to quiet your fears, but I know the only way those fears can truly be put to rest is to put your trust in Jesus.  He is real, and He really loves you.  He really cares.

Let’s allow reformation to start here, in our hearts.  You are loved.  May God’s love drive out every fear!

“The Garden” by Kari Jobi:

I had all
But given up
Desperate for
A sign from love

Something good
Something kind
Bringing peace to every corner of my mind

Then I saw the garden
Hope had come to me
To sweep away the ashes
And wake me from my sleep

I realized
You never left
And for this moment
You planned ahead

That I would see
Your faithfulness in all of the green

I can see the ivy
Growing through the wall
‘Cause You will stop at nothing
To heal my broken soul

I can see the ivy
Reaching through the wall
‘Cause You will stop at nothing
To heal my broken soul

Oh, You’re healing broken souls
You’re healing, You’re healing broken souls

Faith is rising up like ivy
Reaching for the light
Hope is stirring deep inside me
Making all things right

Love is lifting me from sorrow
Catching every tear
Dispelling every lie and torment
Crushing all my fears

You crush all my fears
You crush all my fears

With Your perfect love
Oh-ohh, with Your perfect love

Now I see redemption
Growing in the trees
The death and resurrection
In every single seed

 

 

The Shaking

This morning I sat down and asked the Lord what to read. Immediately I heard, “Haggai.”

I am constantly amazed at how consistently and accurately the Lord’s words through a prophet who lived 2500 years ago can apply so clearly to His people today.

In the 2 little chapters of Haggai, even though Nehemiah had finished the wall and Ezra restored the Word to them, the people had become pre-occupied with making sure they had the biggest 4K TV available, the best sound system and the latest iPhone with an app for everything, and had lost all interest in finishing the work that had been set before them of restoring the House of God, the Temple. (I paraphrase)

Because of their disinterest in the Lord, He said, He caused “their paychecks to disappear as though they were putting them in pockets filled with holes.” Sound familiar to anyone?

Here is His solution: “So now go down to Home Depot and Lowes and rebuild my house!” (again a paraphrase.) Another way to say this is, “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”

He was telling them, I know how to get your attention, so “you hoped for big bonus checks but they were poor. And when you brought your paycheck home, I blew it away.” Did you see that? It was not the enemy stealing from them at this time, it was the Lord. He wanted to get their attention back to Him so He could bless them. He wanted to give them wealth, not just riches. Wealth; all the love, care, nurturing, mentoring, correcting, wisdom-bombs, character development, creativity, innovative ideas and yes, money too. But their focus had been misguided.

And then He promised to make it worse…Like, “Do I have your attention now?”

Thankfully the people feared the Lord, so he said, “I am with you!” Then he sparked the Governor of Praise, the High Priest and all the people with enthusiasm for the work He set before them!

They jumped into the work with excitement in their hearts for the House of God and for His Kingdom. They began to heal the sick, cleanse the leper, raise the dead and cast out demons! Oh…wait…I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Well anyway. As encouragement when the product they were building didn’t quite look like the church in the Book of Acts, the Lord said to them, (2:5) “My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt, so do not be afraid!” Go out and do it anyway and trust me. I am with you and I am for you and I will glorify my name!

Church, the Spirit of God is no longer among us, but is ONE WITH US. We have a greater covenant. We need not fear. No! We CANNOT fear. And we need to know this at the core of our being.

Now more than ever we must make our personal crowns not the Corona, but the helmet of Salvation. What I mean is, our understanding of all that our salvation has bought for us must be full and sure.

In Psalm 91:16, the Father promises that we will know the fullness of our salvation. (TPT) That includes much more than fire insurance. It means we became something new and we are here because the earth needs us to release the Kingdom that is within us.

We also have to know in our hearts that we are righteous before the Lord at all times. so that we never fear the assaults of the enemy. This is critically important so I always know that my Father is holding me by my hand as I go.

I need to be sure of this because He says in Haggai 2:6, “In just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the dry land. v7, I will shake all the nations and the treasures of the nations will be brought to this temple.”

I believe the Father is saying to us at this time, Trust me and I will fulfill your obedience to act in my name, with glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

The shaking has certainly begun. And when this shaking is over more will come. The Lord did not cause this virus among us, but He will get His people’s attention through it. The world is looking for solutions, and we have HIM.

He has given us our marching orders as the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The first step is making Him and His heart our first priority. Return to first love Church!

Now, during this crises, is the time to rise up. I pray the Lord will spark the enthusiasm of all those who love Him to go after His Kingdom with fervor.

I pray the Lord will come upon you in a new way, a way that you have never experienced Him before and literally blow your mind, so that your heart can receive Him without the confinement of your thoughts about Him.

I pray the fire of your passion for Him is re-ignited and that He will breathe upon it until a mighty inferno powers you into the work of the Kingdom, as your heart is entwined with His. Your fingers enveloped in His big hand as you march forward with Him.

 

 

Intimacy

For her, this chance was her last gasp, her last fragment of hope to be healed and restored from the wasting sickness that had aged her, made her pale, given her dark circles under her eyes, stolen her strength, stolen her energy, stolen her hope. But would she dare?

The oppression her culture imposed upon her because of her condition made everything harder. She had tried to find help, wasted all her resources on “cures” that didn’t. Everywhere she went she had to call out, “I am unclean!  Step aside or be defiled by my touch.” She wasn’t even supposed to be in public except for an emergency situation. As she gave her warning, people turned around, wide-eyed and then condemnation filled their faces, as if it were her fault. The most religious wouldn’t even look at her. Well this WAS an emergency!  It was her last gasp for life before she gave up, shriveled up and gave in to death.

Then she saw him, the Rabbi, Yeshua. Well, at least she saw and heard the cluster of activity and people surrounding him, moving slowly along with him. From  houses, from market booths, from begging mats, even from the aristocracy, people called out to Him, “Yeshua!”

“Son of David!”

“Heal me!”

“Touch me!”

She could see people straining to reach Him, straining to touch Him, just a touch, just a look, just a word! They were starving for Him and all He had for them. He was surrounded.

Yet with a kind smile in His eyes, he kept moving, talking, healing, bestowing love on people as He went along. His disciples tried to create some room for Him to move, giving him some distance from the pressing crowd. To do what she must, would cost her the last shred of dignity she still possessed.

As a good Hebrew man, Yeshua wore his tallit, his prayer shawl, with the fringes on the corners. Culturally it is a garment made for intimacy with God. As a man prays, he entwines his fingers in the fringes of the shawl, as he does his wife’s own hand; the reminder of the Word of God and how close, how much a part of his heart it is to be. In the culture of the day, only a man’s wife or children could touch this intimate place on his shawl. For a strange woman to touch it would be treated as adultery.

She could see the colors of His tallit from a distance, and she knew this place of intimacy with the one who sent Him was the key to her healing. Her heart was bursting with this sudden chance. “If I can just touch the fringe of his tallit I will be healed.”

In a burst of adrenaline she rushed the crowd on one side of Him, using the brief shutter of repulsion and the opening made as she shouted out, “Unclean!” one last time, and lunged to reach her arm and then her fingers through as she grasped the intimate fringe of His tallit.

Immediately and finally she felt energy and strength rush through her body.  Color rose in her cheeks as spontaneous recognition of hope fulfilled flooded her heart.  Color began to drain away again as she realized she might be healed but now in serious trouble; so she began to dart away to hide.

“Who touched me?” she heard the Rabbi ask? His disciples were confused. “What can you mean?  Everyone is touching you Yeshua.” “No. Somebody touched me and power has flowed out of me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed.48 “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace. (Luke 8:47-48 NLT)

“What?” Her eyes popped open. Did he just say that? her mind raced as she realized no one was going to stone her to death. Look, His eyes are full of love and peace and He’s looking at me! He called me daughter! As His daughter I am permitted this intimacy. As one who is intimate with him I have broken no law, I cannot be punished, no law will judge me, I am free! I am clean! I am healed! I am restored! I am His!

Amen!  This is what we have been granted in the new covenant. As partakers of the Body and Blood of the King, we are permitted every intimacy with Him. Our fingers are entwined in His prayer shawl, entwined in His own fingers. When we take His body into ours we become one flesh with Him. From this intimate place we are permitted to know the thoughts of our King and He shares them with us. We are permitted to know His heart’s intention that, when spoken, transforms.

In the physical, it is a common thing for people who have received an organ from another person to have memories from that person’s life. When we partake of our Father’s blood in the blood of Jesus, I believe we are also given access to His memories, His thoughts toward us, the plans He made for us from before the foundation of the world.

As I sit with Him in the intimacy of communion, fully receiving from Him, I am permitted to know the works He has prepared in advance for me to do. I am given the blueprints, the strategies. I am permitted to receive all of Him into all of me.  I am daughter, I am friend, I am bride. I am His.

Based on Luke 8:43-48

Pain Cant Hurt Me

The wave of deep, dull aching pain began to crescendo again in my left side radiating across my middle to my back.  It had been about fifteen minutes since the last crash of the wave, so I knew the inevitable was upon me.

My only momentary relief from the pain was vomiting my guts into the trashcan.  So, I reluctantly grabbed the plastic container again, and hugging it, waited for the compulsion to hurl to commence.   The pain reached the point of no return, causing my stomach to convulse.

At this very moment, I felt my heavenly Father’s embrace, as peace enveloped me.

“Pain can’t hurt you, little one, “ I heard whispered in my ear.

“What?  Surely, I’m not hearing this right,” I thought as I gagged.

I heard it again, and again, as the words tumbled over and over through my mind.  “Pain can’t hurt you.”

“But Papa, this hurts, it hurts so badly,” I countered.

“Yes, my love.  It does hurt, but it can’t hurt you,” He continued.

I struggled to understand what He meant.  Here I am, a trauma survivor, awaiting surgery the following day for a kidney stone that I wasn’t passing, afraid that the pain would be too much for me, and yet the God of the Universe, who could just heal me by the way, is giving me an object lesson on pain.

What?

I can hear some of your thoughts of “God wouldn’t do that.”

I’m not in any way saying God caused the kidney stone to teach me a lesson on pain, but I find in most cases in my life He won’t waste a bit of life’s experiences, whether positive or negative, to teach me something or to bring some inherent good out of it.

“He works ALL things together for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purposes.”  Rom. 8:28    He also said, “In this world, we will have trouble, but I’ve overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Well, my lesson was not over yet.  That evening, I was dreading a night of pain, more vomiting, and sleeplessness.  I honestly was beginning to wonder if I’d make it to the surgery the next morning.  As I got ready for bed, I again heard the Father’s prompting.  “ Stop fighting the pain.  Rest in it.”

Again, in shock, I countered, “How can you even say that?  How in the world am I supposed to rest in this pain?”  But, He wouldn’t change His mind, nor relent in what He was saying.

Finally, out of desperation, I looked to heaven and said, “Fine.  I’ll lean back and rest in this pain.”  As soon as I did, I again heard Him say,  “I’ll take care of this.”  Within minutes, I fell fast asleep.

Some time later, I awoke.  I had slept several hours straight.  I lay in the bed, waiting for the pain to hit.  It never did.  At some point in the middle of the night, God pulverized that stone.  An ultrasound the next day confirmed the stone was gone.

After the fact, I asked the Holy Spirit for some explanation.  What I came to understand was that yes, pain hurts in the sense of the natural.  We feel pain, whether mental, physical, or spiritual.  It wasn’t that God was devaluing that.  He bore our pains and carried our sorrows.  HE understands pain.  But what He was trying to get across to me is that when He is right there in the middle of it with me, it can’t truly hurt me, not the real me that He’s created me to be.  Nothing is greater than Him in me.  Not even pain is greater than Him.  Pain doesn’t have the power to overwhelm me and make me loose anything, because in Jesus I am held safe and sound.  I can rest back into suffering or pain, knowing that God is far greater than anything I’ll face, and He will turn it around for my good.

There have many times since then that the Holy Spirit has reminded me of those words spoken to me.  “Pain can’t hurt you.”  “Stop fighting the pain.  Lean back and rest in it.”

You see, especially as an abuse survivor, I’ve been afraid of pain, afraid it could push me over some invisible cliff that would cause me to loose it.  I’ve been afraid of suffering.

If you just live for ten minutes on this great, green earth, you will see suffering all around you.  In American culture, we do all we can to avoid it, being driven by comfort and convenience.  Yet, it is still there.

And lately, suffering just seems to increase.  From coronavirus filing the news, to a friend thrown in jail for running with her kids, to another mom fighting for her teenage daughter’s safety, to a loved one fighting Parkinson’s, etc., etc., sometimes it feels overwhelming when evil seems to prevail in this world.

I don’t normally watch the President’s State of the Union address; however, this last time, I did.  The story that caught my attention the most was about the young lady who believed God was a God in the middle of suffering, so she went to a Taliban ruled country to live with the suffering women and children to find that God.  Subsequently, she was captured by the lead Taliban terrorist and made his slave,  was tortured and mutilated until she was finally murdered.  I kept thinking, “Jesus, why?  Why such a tragedy?”

As I asked Jesus that question, He just gently answered, “She found me.  She found me in the suffering.  I was there.  I never left her.  I encompassed her like a shield, and though her body was tortured, her soul and spirit were surrounded by Me.”

Did Jesus want that to happen?  Of course not!   Does He see and care about every single person who is suffering?  Yes.  HE is close to the brokenhearted.  HE sees a single bird when it falls to the ground, and HE cares about it.  What breaks our hearts, breaks His heart.  He also sees a much larger, grander picture than we do though, and in that we can rest in Him.

Honestly, it still makes me sick to my stomach to hear those stories, because I hate that evil.  We think it’s limited to overseas, but it’s not.  It’s all around us in different forms.  Sex trafficking for one – women and children being abused, men as well in some cases – children abducted, murders, etc..

Yet, in every situation, in all the things, I see Jesus entering into that suffering, and being so present, just like He was with me hugging that trashcan.   He doesn’t stand aloof correcting us for not having enough “faith”.  He jumps right into the darkest place we find ourselves in, and He is actively at work turning it out for good for us.

Evil people may choose to continue in their evil practices.  He won’t violate freewill, but He does promise that one day it will catch up to them and that they will be held accountable.  We can rest in the justice of God.

Even in the most painful of situations, He asks us to trust Him.  Sometimes, He doesn’t rescue out of the pain, because He is working something good for us in it.  Sometimes, He is healing something deeper in us, maybe than we can’t even see, or doing something behind the scenes that we can’t understand in the moment.

Yet, He is always good, and is working all things together for our good.

Even as I write this, my daughter is watching a story about George Muller, a man who chose to completely run his ministry trusting God to supply all the needs of the orphanages he ran, never asking anyone for anything.

The story goes that one day there was not food for breakfast for the children, so he instructed them to pray.  As they did, a milk truck broke down in front of the orphanage.  The milkman brought in jugs of milk for the children, so that it wouldn’t spoil.  Shortly after, a baker knocked on the door with baskets of bread, because the Lord had prompted him to bake it for the children that morning.

God sees everything, knows our every thought and need, and He loves us.  He’s really BIG, far bigger than our enemies.  Even when all we can see is disappointment and pain, He is just waiting for us to trust Him, knowing somehow He will turn it for our good.

To me, the more amazing miracle is that He weaves it all into a beautiful masterpiece, even with all the things that looked completely dark or impossible.  Every strand becomes part of this gorgeous tapestry of our lives that He one day will present to us, and show us how He turned it all into beauty.  Every ash.  Every fear.  Every tear.

He asks us, He asks me, to trust Him, to trust that He is really good.  Some how, in some way, as I lean back into His embrace resting in His love for me, He will turn it all around for my good, because after all, pain can’t really hurt me,  not the real me, when He is in it with me.

 

 

Because I’m Free

Raindrops are falling on my head
And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed
Nothing seems to fit
Those raindrops are falling on my head, they keep falling
So I just did me some talking to the sun
And I said I didn’t like the way he got things done
Sleeping on the job
Those raindrops are falling on my head, they keep falling
But there’s one thing I know
The blues they send to meet me
Won’t defeat me, it won’t be long
Till happiness steps up to greet me
Raindrops keep falling on my head
But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turning red
Crying’s not for me
‘Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining
Because I’m free
Nothing’s worrying me
It won’t be long till happiness steps up to greet me
Raindrops keep falling on my head
But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turning red
Crying’s not for me
‘Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining
Because I’m free
Nothing’s worrying me
Fifty years ago a doctor hummed that tune as he sauntered into my mom’s hospital room to check on a curly haired, newborn girl.  That girl was me.
My mom reminded me of that scenario last night as we talked on the phone.  As I recalled the words, singing the tune in my head, I said, “Mom, I think that may be my life’s theme song.”  I could feel her smile on the other end of the line.
Though I have my moments of “Oh my Lord, I’m turning fifty,” I must seem a bit weird, because I’ve actually had this excitement welling up in me the last few days, which is kind of different, especially since I’ve had some fairly large raindrops falling on my head in the last few weeks.
So, why in the world do I feel excited?  The answer is pretty simple.  I am so very grateful that I made to fifty, and I’m in such a better place than I was a decade ago.
You see ten years ago, I was struggling through a hurricane.  Those raindrops were huge then; huge!  I couldn’t see through them.  Every day, that I’d wake up, it was a fight to live. I had sticky notes all over my medicine cabinet of scripture verses on life and how I wanted to live, because I was constantly battling thoughts of suicide.
Depression smothered me.  Flashbacks haunted me.  Demons tortured me in my mind. And yes, I was a believer.  I had been faithful to Jesus to the best of my understanding, but I had wounds so deep, they oozed deadly infection; wounds that had been inflicted on me by others, that only Jesus could heal.
All the while, I had three beautiful little girls depending on me to pull through, and a loving, supportive husband trying his best to provide for us, and to help me as best he could.
Most of my church friends turned away during this time. I’ve found out now that scenario is very typical.  I had a few that stood with me.  My counselor wouldn’t give up on me, but most of all Jesus wouldn’t let go of me.
Over these last ten years, Jesus has faithfully, ever so lovingly and patiently, taken me by the hand and led me out.  He guided me through that hurricane, into sunshine, into light, into Him.
You don’t understand how much gratitude I feel in my heart.  I can breathe again.  I can enjoy my life.  I can laugh, and play and sing and dance.  I feel joy and peace and excitement for the future.  I didn’t even know that was possible ten years ago.
Even though some whopper raindrops still come from time to time, and I’m still working through areas of freedom, as I  daily cast my worries on Jesus, for I know He cares for me, I can now sing the last words of the song.  So, if you hear me humming,  “Because I’m free.  Nothing’s worrying me,” you’ll know why.

Lyrics by BJ Thomas

 

Sent from my iPhone

Where Have All the Pastors Gone?

“Ma…Ma…Ma……..”  What is this I hear?  The bleating of sheep in my ears.

Two years ago, we broke our homeowners association’s covenant big time.  Guilty was the verdict.  Before you turn us in, I must explain.  We fostered new born lambs in our home for a week as part of a 4H project.  I did just say “in our home”.  Actually, they lived in our breakfast area, until they began to leap over the barrier I had erected, invading our living room.

We did it all:  stayed up for multiple nights losing sleep to take turns bottle fed them, took their temperature rectally, wiped their bottoms, put them in diapers to help prevent them from peeing all over the carpet in the living room they had invaded, took them back to the farm to get their shots, and even walked them on leashes out in the yard.

I did it for the kids of course, a great hands-on learning experience.  It’s what mom’s do; especially, those weird homeschool moms, of which I must admit I’m also guilty of being.  Who was the one who got most attached to those sweet, cuddly lamb?  Me of course.  But out of it I tasted what being a shepherd is like.  And two years later, if we go back to the farm and I call out into the field, two sheep will still come to me, because they bonded with me and remember my voice.

A few of decades ago, a movement came through the church called “the shepherding movement”.  It began with all the right intentions, as many movements do, with a true desire for pastors and church leadership to “shepherd their flock”.  The problem was it quickly became perverted into “How can I control ‘my’ flock; how can I manipulate ‘my’ flock?”  It morphed into a perverted form of spiritual leadership, where the mantra was: obey without question your “shepherd”, because you are just sheep and you will be led astray from the flock if you don’t do exactly what your pastor says.  Obviously, this led to many people damaged and hurt, because the “wolves” came in.

By the way, there’s nothing wrong with a pastor, who truly has a shepherding heart.  In fact, now we’ve swung the other way.  Where have all the true pastors gone?

Today, it seems like many want to be a prophet or an apostle (an apostle is one who goes into a new place and sets things up.  The word first appeared in roman culture, because they would go in and recreate their culture where ever they would go.)  And we’ve ignored the other gifts, especially the pastors (those who truly having a caring, nurturing heart).

Many mega churches are steered by the “Apostle”.  I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, when in balance.

Let me back up a step.  Ephesians 4:12-13 tells us that God has given the five-fold ministry gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher to the church to help us to grow it up into maturity until we are all priests and kings.  All of these gifts are equally important. There will be more need of certain gifts from time to time.   Not only that, we are all supposed to operate in all of them at different times when the need arises.

Now I can hear some saying, “Oh, I’m not a prophet.”  Or even that the office of prophet and apostle are not for today.  I’m not going to argue that point here.  I’ll just say this.  Jesus most assuredly operated in all of those ministry gifts as the need arose.  He was called “prophet”, “teacher”, “shepherd”.  He certainly “evangelized” bringing the good news to a world who needed it, and He certainly brought heavens culture where ever He went, thus He was an “apostle”.  So, who are we supposed to emulate?

In fact, the Bible says we will do greater things than Jesus did!  Logic follows that the Creator of this Universe gave those gifts to us, for us to utilize at the right place, at the right time in order to build up each other until we all grow up into maturity to be priests and kings before the ultimate priest and king.

My friends, it’s not about one person lording one particular gift over another, and everyone else bowing down to the great man of God with that gift as we depend on them to lead us.  In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about the gifts and their equal importance.   In fact, regarding the particular gifting of prophet, because though it is personally one of my favorite gifts, it can be seen as a “showy” gifting.  Paul goes further in chapter 13, to say that if he were to have the gift of prophecy, but did not have love, then he is nothing, a zero.  He also describes it like a clanging gong, a noisy cymbal just making a lot of noise.

I once had a church leader look at me and tell me that basically he wasn’t warm and caring, because he was an apostle; therefore, he was excused from being a shepherd.  I’ve also heard many people say that they are a certain personality type; therefore, they are locked into acting or not acting a certain way.  They were just born this way.  There’s nothing wrong with having a better understanding of the way your are wired and what strengths and weakness we have.  But we can’t throw that around as an excuse for a lack in character, a lack in love.

So, here’s why I began with our lamb story.

I was terrified of having those lambs in my home.  I was so afraid I was going to do something wrong to hurt them.  They were the owner’s prized babies, “her golden ones”, because they had come from the lineage of her first ewe.  But as the week went by, I realized I could be a shepherd to those sweet babies, as they slept trustingly on my lap after a good feeding.  God had put everything I needed in me to care, love, and protect those who were needing it.

We need pastors, as much as we need any of the ministry gifts, and we are all called to operate as a pastor from time to time.  To have a healthy, vibrant body, we must have all the parts fully functional, each one doing what’s needed at the right time.

We are all called to be shepherds, because we are called to be like Jesus.  We are all called to build up one other until we all reach maturity with whatever gift is needed at the time.  The gifts comes from our good Father in heaven who delights to give them to us.  Let’s be like Jesus.

Do You See What I See?

“Said the night wind to the little lamb,

“Do you see what I see?

Way up in the sky, little lamb,

Do you see what I see?

A star, a star dancing in the night…’”

In the past, the Christmas season has been a high trigger time for me, like it is for many.  The reason was growing up, life was not as it seemed.  It was the time of year that the expectation was for our lives to look happy, joyous, and celebratory, but beneath the surface, pain, lies, and fear perpetrated my soul.

My grandmother and my mom made every attempt to paint the perfect picture of a happy family at Christmas for us.  Their intentions were good, partly out of survival. They could have designed a Norman Rockwell card, but when you live in an abusive home, the things happening behind the closed doors, well, they just didn’t stop happening for Christmas.  In fact, I think it made it worse to pretend everything was so happy and good.

Those trauma experiences embedded lies deep in my psyche.  So much so, that many times without warning thoughts and fears will slap me across the face.  These unsettling feelings bubble up like sludge, feelings of “The rug’s getting ready to be pulled out,” or “Things are too good; something bad is going to happen,” among others.

A few days ago, Father God posed the question to me, “Do you see what I see?”  I think I may have heard Him humming the tune to me.  He knows it is one of my favorites.

My thoughts immediately rushed to a recent event I attended, where I displayed the artwork of some of the participants in the art class I lead for a local ministry, which helps women out of the clutches of the sex trafficking industry.

When I see those ladies, I don’t see them the way they think I do.   I can tell when they hang their head low, staring at their feet, or their eyes darting around the room, that they are afraid of what I might see in them.  I know, because I used to be afraid of the same thing, the same judgement coming from others when they looked into my eyes.

When I look at them, I don’t see their past sins, the chains that have held them, or the wounds they still carry.  I see them as beautiful, priceless daughters of God.  I see how much God loves them.  I see the potential God has placed in them.  I guess one reason I do is because I remember what He has brought me out of.

A few weeks ago, one participant walked in with her sketchbook tucked safely under her arm.  She carefully placed it on a table, reminding me that she promised me she would bring it to the next class.  I knew what this meant to her.  It held her soul on paper, and she was giving me the privilege of seeing it, of seeing the real her.  I told her how honored I was, how if she accidently left it, I’d have to guard it with my life.  It held her dreams, her pain, her scars, her fears, how she viewed herself.  What a gift to see.

It’s much, much easier for me to look at someone else coming out of so much pain and see them the way God sees them.  Yet, in my day to day, I still struggle with lies of who I really am.  Do I see what God sees when He looks at me?  Sadly, the answer is often no.  Most days, I still see my brokenness, my past, my fears, my failures.

That’s not how my Papa God sees me though.

I asked Him one time how I can trust what He keeps telling me about myself, when I still struggle with the same lies, especially when they are bombarding my mind like bombs being exploding on a battlefield.  His answer was simple, but not what I had thought of before.  He said that He is eternal, and therefore, already in the future.  When He speaks something about me, it’s because it is already true of me from His point of view as the eternal one; therefore, I can trust what He says to be true.  It also helps that He is in and of Himself completely truth, so it’s impossible for Him to lie to me.

When He says I’m more than an overcomer through Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37), it’s not just because it’s in His Word and therefore some nice little cliché about me.  It’s because He already sees my end, and that I have already overcome.

In a Graham Cooke class I took last year, the challenge was to write a detailed identity statement sheet of how God sees me, what God calls me, the destiny He has for my life.  I wrote it when I took the class, and sometimes I will glance at it taped to my bathroom mirror, but when those lies began whispering again, I felt the Lord ask me to update my list, because He is always adding more clarity to my identity, it seems.  So, I did the exercise again, and found myself asking Him, “Is this really the way you see me?”  Probably, not the most faith-filled question ever asked.  Yet, I heard the gentle whisper,
“Yes, child this is part of what is written about you in heaven.  This is how you are seen here, because this is who you really are.”

Renewing your mind, as it talks about in Romans 12:2, is lining up our thoughts to the thoughts of God.  Seeing ourselves, others, and Him, through heaven’s perspective.

When Jesus laid in that manger, I wonder how many people just saw him as any other baby.  Did they miss the eternal one in flesh suckling at his mother’s breast?  Did they just see him as a Nazarene boy born out of wedlock?  Or like the shepherds in the field, did they realize God, God was being held in their human hands.

Do I see God for who He really is?   I was in a worship service recently standing in the back against the wall, one of my favorite places to be.  All of sudden, it was like heaven opened and as an overlay, I was standing in front of God in all His glory, the God who holds the universes in His hands.    The congregation continued singing as normal about the greatness of God, calmly clapping their hands in rhythm.  I thought I was going to explode, literally.  Thoughts of being escorted out by their security blipped across my mind.  “God,” I cried out inside, “they have no idea how great you are!”

The truth is I’ve only had the smallest drop of His greatness, like a minute molecule.   Yet, how I see Him is even more important than how I see myself.  Do I see Him as good?  Do I see Him as love?  He Is continually drawing me into renewing my mind as to how I see Him as well.

How do you see others?   Through His lens or through your pain or fear?  Ask Him how He sees others.  It will change how you treat them.

What does God see when He looks at you?  Ask Him.   Then ask for His grace to change your thoughts to line up to His.

How do you see Him?  Make sure that view is based on who is as revealed in His word, in His character, in your experiences with Him.

Do you see what I see?

“The child, the child
Sleeping in the night,
He will bring us goodness and light.
He will bring us goodness and light.

He will bring us goodness and light.”

 

Lyrics from “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by  Noel Regney / Gloria Shayne

The Pretenders

“The religious scholars and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ throne as the authorized interpreters of the Law.  So listen and follow what they teach, but don’t do what they do, for they tell you one thing, but do another.  They tie on your backs an oppressive burden of religious obligations and insist that you carry it, but will never lift a finger to help ease your load.  Everything they do is done for show and to be noticed by others.  They want to be seen as holy, so they wear oversized prayer boxes on their arms and foreheads with Scriptures inside, and wear extra-long tassels on their outer garments.  They crave the seats of highest honor at banquets and in their meeting places.  And how they love to be admired by men with their titles of respect, aspiring to be recognized in public and have others called them “Reverend.”’

“But you are to be different from that.  You are not to be called “master,” for you have only one Master, and you are all brothers and sisters…  The greatest among you will be the one who always serves others from the heart.  Remember this:  If you have a lofty opinion of yourself and seek to be honored, you will be humbled.  But if you have a modest opinion of yourselves and choose to humble yourself, you will be honored.”  Matthew 23:1-12 TPT

Jesus continues in on in the next several verses to call the religious leaders of His day “frauds, pretenders; those who not only won’t go into heaven’s kingdom, but keep others out as well; those who eat up the widow’s household; who make disciples of hell; who swear by gold and money; who are obsessed with peripheral issues, but ignore the most important thing, which is walking in love with God, displaying mercy, and living by integrity; who wipe clean the outside of the cup, while leaving the inside filthy; who are nothing more than shiny tombs, beautiful on the outside, but holding decaying corpses of corruption; and, who masquerade as righteous people.”  Matthew 23:27 TPT

These are the words of Jesus to the Pharisees, who were the religious leaders, but also the governmental leaders in His day.  Though Rome was the ruling government, it was the laws of the religious leaders that truly governed the people affecting every area of their lives.  We can imagine in our day, Jesus addressing church leaders.

It’s so interesting to me, that the ones society would have called low-life, sinners, and the untouchable ones, Jesus called friends, forgiven, restored, those with great faith, family.   Towards these, he demonstrated honor, respect, and compassion; touching, healing, and loving those that had been pushed to the wayside, kicked to curb, and left to die.

Why was He so hard on the religious leaders then?

Well, I believe that He saw the their hearts, the well-hidden issues: the corrupted, puffed up, self-seeking germs infecting every cell.

More than that, He knew that people looked to these religious leaders as an example of what God was like.  As they wallowed in selfish corruption, they presented a very twisted, skewed view of Father God.

Their number one job was to point the people to a loving, relational God.   Instead, they abused their positions of authority for greedy, personal gain, even to the extent of murdering the prophets, thereby removing anyone who stood in their way.    The ultimate act was murdering Jesus, the very Son of God they so poorly represented.

Why is this message important for us today?

Some of the worse abuse I’ve experienced in my life has come by the hands of “religious leaders”.   When the enemy uses the very ones who should be representing Father’s heart best, he most effectively twists, like a mangled tangle, our view of who our loving God is, often our enemy leaves permanent damage in his victims.  This is why the enemy loves, loves when he can manipulate leaders to act on his behalf, but also why Yahweh hates this misrepresentation so much.

God doesn’t hate the people, even the abusers.  Jesus died for them as them as well.  Yet, He hates the perversion, because these very leaders should be representing His heart.  When people look to them, they think God is the same way.

This is also why so often when a leader falls, our faith is shaken.  Yet, perhaps our faith was in the leader, not in Yahweh.

I know, because not only have I seen this play out in others who have been abused by church leaders on every level, but also how it’s taken me years for the Holy Spirit to undo the lies, which contaminated my soul like a poison, distorting my perception of my loving Father.   Many times, I still struggle to view God through a clear, clean lens.

I really believe God loves His bride, and we are in a time of God exposing corruption in religious leaders, as well as in government.   I believe that has only begun to happen, and will increase in the coming years.  It’s not out of God’s wrath though.  It’s because He loves us, and more than anything wants us to know Him for who He really is, without the distorted view presented through ungodly leaders.

As a part of this cleansing, we need to be able to recognize what abuse looks like.

When people have walked through abuse as children, and then come in contact with unhealthy, abusive leaders, they often don’t even realize it, because it is their norm, their familiar place.  This is why abuse continues to cycle through generations of family lines, why these broken ones end up continuing the cycle by marrying an abuser.

Until we come out from this prison of lies, taking off the distorted glasses that have been placed on us, and taste true love through caring people God brings into our lives, direct encounters with our compassionate Father, and through revelatory truth from His word, we remain captives.

Jesus came to set us free. May we all walk fully in the freedom He paid such a high price to give us.   May we recognize unhealthy leadership and come out from under lies and perversion, setting our hearts on intimately knowing our loving God.

 

 

Finding Rest

Thanksgiving is two days away. For obvious reasons, I’ve been thinking about things that I’m grateful for, and reminiscing about God‘s goodness this past year, even though in many ways it has been a difficult one to walk through.

Transition has been the word for this year, as I have watched so many areas of our life shift around, affecting pretty much every relationship.  Many friends have stepped out or distanced themselves from us, several others have stepped in.  New connections have been made.  We have stepped into new business and ministry opportunities.  We are still bouncing around among a few churches.   All of these changes have been very uncomfortable for me.

Often times I view things in the negative, instead of the positive.  Yet, when I look back, I can see God’s steady hand guiding us through it all, and I am beginning to understand how the lessons we’ve learned have been invaluable.

The most valuable thing of all is I am finding that the Father is drawing me closer to His heart.

Before I was married, I went through a season of dating God. The commitment was that for six months I would not date any man, but instead devote my attention, love, and time on God. During that time frame, I reached a place of contentment with God that had not known before. I was satisfied with God alone as he was fulfilling every need in my heart.

It was during this time that my husband came into my life.  I had longed to find the man of my dreams for so long.  When he was finally standing in front of me, I refused to go on a date with him until my commitment to God was completed. How funny.  God made sure my heart was completely His, before releasing me to another.

In recent months, I have felt like God has pulled me into his heart like that again. He’s asked me to come away with Him, to put my focus on Him as much as I can.  Honestly, it’s been tough with so many responsibilities of life pulling at me.   He has cut away many relationships with friends and even some family.  Sometimes, I have felt like it’s back to just me and Him.  It has been a painful pruning at times.  Honestly, I’m sorry to say that much of the time I’ve complained about.

Yet, the longer I’m gazing on Him and spending time in fellowship with Him, I feel my heart coming to a place of being satisfied with God alone. This place of contentment has been foreign to me in the past years, but I’m finding it is filled with His peace, His joy, and His deep love for me.  Most of my life, those emotions eluded me, until the last few years, as I’ve walked into more healing.

I feel my heart settling down, and I am beginning to rest in Him alone.  I’ve never been in this place before, but it is a beautiful place that I’m coming to value more than anything else in my life.

It doesn’t mean that challenges don’t come. In fact, when they do come, and my peace is ebbing away, I am quickly realizing that I need to get back into this secret place with God. I think it’s what Psalm 91 refers to when it speaks of dwelling in the secret place.

I have thought about how this satisfied place with God corresponds with thankfulness. When I have a thankful heart, I am satisfied with who God is and what comes from His hand.  I’m looking outside of myself to Him to fulfill me, and selfishness melts away like snowflake on my window pane.  The attitude of gratitude comes easier when my focus is on the goodness of God, and how He displays His glory through His goodness to me and to others.

A few months ago, I found myself doubled over a trash can heaving my guts out so that I could relieve the excruciating pain in my side caused by a kidney stone that was stuck.  The only thing that relieved the pain was vomiting, which was happening every fifteen minutes or so.  In the past, this would have been extremely traumatic for me, but as I hung my head over the can, I felt held, even comforted.

I heard clearly in my mind, “Carolyn, pain can’t really hurt you.”  I continued hearing those words over and over again.  “Pain can’t really hurt you.”

Right dab in the middle of being ready to meet Jesus, I felt His peace envelope me.  I know this sounds crazy, like a Paul and Silas from the prison cell moment, but through my gagging, I began to praise Him.  Words spoken by Bill Johnson rang in my mind, that when my heart is broken by grief or pain, that is a place like non other from which to praise the Lord.  It is a pure praise that I can offer God, unlike any other time.  So, I did. That night that large stone miraculously dissolved and I cancelled the surgery scheduled the following day.

If I can continue to operate out of thankfulness and gratitude for everything God has done, but more than that for who God is, even in the worse of circumstances, then what can the enemy bring against me?  What can separate me from the love of God?

This is a beautiful place to be, and a place that my heart longs to stay in. It is the secret place where I hide in the love of my Father.   In this rest, this peace, this belonging is where my soul, spirit, and body are nourished, flowing with His grace, His goodness, and His love. It is satisfaction in God alone.  This is all new to me, and like I said I have fought against it many times, but this is where I long to stay with Him.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. May you find that place of rest and be satisfied with His great love for you.