Posted in Journal

The Botched-Up Job

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Two years ago, I was in Tanzania – on the mission field.  My Facebook Memories section is full today of those stories.

I haven’t been anywhere since TZ because that trip took a great toll on me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. On the mission, we worked late at night in the red light district with young girls bound by the sex trade. A few were receptive; many more were cold. Some were downright angry! My very first encounter was an older lady that approached me and seemed to bless me out. She yelled some things as she pointed her finger in my face. I don’t know what she said because my interpreter didn’t tell me, but it was not good. We were often in dark places and alleys where you couldn’t see one step ahead to get your footing. We were also in busier areas of the city with more light but where the pimps, bus drivers, and local motorcyclists would try to intimidate you by driving as close to you as they could to you without hitting you and screaming at you as they did so. During the daytime we did prayer walks through those same streets which were now quiet and well lit by the hot sun. There we saw the evidence of the darkness all over the place. 

I need to say it finally – when I was out on the streets at night I felt fear. I didn’t want to and never expected to but I felt a kind of fear like I have not known in a very long time. It was a crippling fear and it was terrifying at times. Sometimes I couldn’t think of any words to say and often I didn’t know what to do with myself. My entire being felt like I went into survival/escape mode. Here I was a grown woman…thirteen years free from that kind of fear…experiencing it once again. I remember feeling so ashamed and disappointed in myself. I remember thinking if I couldn’t do this, why was I even there? Standing there frozen in fear, I couldn’t think of one good reason. The director of the mission said later I had been sent there to pray, but surely I could have prayed from safer places. Nevertheless, pray, I did. It was all I was capable of.

It has been two years, and since returning to the USA from TZ, my world has changed in many ways. I been obedient to new assignments and done many good things. I have mostly moved forward. But I had not moved past those five nights on the streets of Tanzania. I have sat too often thinking, wondering, and questioning every call the Lord has placed on my life in relation to them. I have tried to transform my call (to missions, prayer, and teaching the Word) to something more safe and domestic so as not to include those days as the will of God. I have tried to make the fear, and it’s consequences someone else’s fault. I have turned down invitations for missions thinking at least now I knew what my true calling wasn’t. But then I have watched as many have gone out here or there, and I have tried my best not to care. But the mission field is buried deep within my heart, right where God planted it. 

Today, two years later here I sit and I admit I totally botched-up the job. I failed the team, supporters and I failed the girls. Their stories were heartbreaking, and they deserved more. But more so, I failed God. I should have walked in boldness and faith through those streets like the rest of the team. I should have let Him carry me through the fear. I should have and then I could have come home excited for what the Lord did and been on fire to tell of it. Because the LORD truly did great things despite my weaknesses and failures. Instead, I avoided most conversations about it. What would I say? After all, wasn’t my testimony that God delivered me from extreme fear?

Perhaps not telling the real story with the real emotions of my real mission experience was my biggest failure. So many go on missions and come back ready to take on the world. I have and I love that about missions. But I wonder if others (like me) ever left on a mission feeling confident and came back only to battle the enemy and themselves for a season because of what they have seen, heard, and felt that they weren’t able to overcome on the field? Anyone else ever feel like you botched-up the job God sent you to do?

Today I saw the quote above and I listened again to the story below of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. These two great missionaries paid a high price (in life and death) to stay faithful to their call on the mission field. If anyone had reasons for great fear, Elisabeth Elliot did. She inspires me.

I came away from her testimony today and some sermons my pastor has preached lately and I repented of the doors I had to have opened that allowed such fear in. I asked the Lord for forgiveness and deliverance from all fear. I asked Him to destroy it at the root and fill that empty cranny with Himself, His joy, His life, His peace, His boldness…and if it is His will and He can trust me and use me once more, I ask for another chance somewhere, someday. 

Posted in Journal

There will come a time…

There will come a time when God will require you to focus on Him and Him alone. He will direct you to take your time, your resources, your hands, and your heart off the great things others are doing so that you can focus on Him and what He wants you to do.

There will come a time when you must learn to stand alone with Jesus; even in a crowd of those that love Him dearly and likely love you too.

There will come a time to leave behind the need for a human “word” to hear the Word the Holy Ghost wants to say to you – about YOU!

There will come a time when a prayer line is formed, and you will stand still happy that the only person praying over you is JESUS as He intercedes at the right hand of the Father.

There will come a time when you want His call to come forth in you more than you want the comfort of many connections and circles. The circle He wants you in, He is forming Himself!!!

There will come a time when you will, of necessity, measure all words, actions, and attitudes against the Word of God. Oh but, He will require you measure your own heart first!

There will come a time when He will allow you to stand awkwardly and even stumble a bit to then turn around and bless you with a victory dance.

There will come a time when through the pain and tears of loss and disappointment, you realize that you have lost much of your vision and yet you can see more clearly than ever His!!!

There will come a time when Jesus will teach you  – HE is MORE than enough.

—-

The final thing I want to share today is this –

God called me to do a work in this season, for His glory. I know this because I do know His voice!!! Some days I feel anointed for it and some days I feel like a starfish out of the water waiting on a wave to carry me back to some past place…but here in this present place, He has taught me much about peace and contentment. Of course, I have desires, but I come through this time having no real ambition other than to do God’s will no matter my desires. He alone knows my path, what is sent to trip me, and if I will allow Him to carry me through. Minute by minute I need Him and so I pray again today as every day that I am found pressing on – faithful in Him – declaring to my world that JESUS is more than enough for me!

GLORY!!!

Posted in Journal

He Keeps Me Singing

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Driving home from church last Sunday, God put a song in my heart. HE KEEPS ME SINGING. Often He gives me a song, but this was different because the Lord had put the same song there on the first day of this new year. And I was driving down that very same road. This time though as I drove down Redbud Road singing the chorus, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest Name I know. Fills my every longing; keeps me singing as I go,” the Lord said to me, “Do I fill Your every longing?” Now, that got my attention. I have some longings as everyone does, but I often look to other people to do for me what God alone can. He alone can fill my every longing.

Arriving home I looked up the history of this song because I knew there was something more the Lord wanted to share.

Luther B. Bridges (1484 -1948) began preaching at the age of seventeen and was ordained as a Methodist Minister. He then served as an evangelist in the American South and in mission work in Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Russia. He pastored in Georgia and North Carolina before retiring in 1945 in Gainesville, Georgia.  As a teen, he met Sarah Vetch, and they reportedly fell in love at first sight. They were both younger than twenty years old when they married. They had three boys.  In 1910 Bridges accepted an invitation to minister at a conference in Kentucky, so he left his family in the care of his father-in-law and made the trip to Kentucky. There he had two wonderful weeks of ministry. He closed the last service with great joy and was excited to be called to the telephone. He couldn’t wait to tell his wife about all the blessings. But it wasn’t her voice on that long distance line. Instead, he listened in silence to the news that a fire had burned down the house of his father-in-law and his wife and all three of his sons had died in the blaze. He was bereaved for his wife and children and asked himself, “How could this happen while I was doing God’s will?”  But that distraught father leaned heavily on His Savior and expressed his faith in God and during a tearful moment, he penned the words of this hymn.

When you sing the words of this “upbeat” song, you would probably never sense the pain and sorrow.  But knowing the story behind it, you can see his sorrow with phrases he uses such as … Fear not … peace be still …discord … heart with pain … broken strings … His sheltering wing … and then, in verse 4, waters deep … trials … the path seems rough and steep.

Maybe you are like me, and you would use some of these words to express something you are going through.  If so, notice the author always answers with … Jesus, Jesus, Jesus …sweetest Name I know. Fills my every longing … keeps me singing as I go.

And look at the hope of the final verse – Soon He’s coming back to welcome me … I shall reign with Him on high.  That truth should enable us to live each day with expectation in our hearts and it should … keeps me singing as I go! Allow Him to fill your longings today!!! He is able and willing and only He can!!!

 

(1)   There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,
In all of life’s ebb and flow.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.
 
(2)   All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain,
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumbering chords again.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.
 
(3)    Feasting on the riches of His grace,
Resting ‘neath His sheltering wing,
Always looking on His smiling face,
That is why I shout and sing.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.
 
(4)     Though sometimes He leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See His footprints all the way.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.
 
(5)    Soon He’s coming back to welcome me,
Far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown,
I shall reign with Him on high.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.
Posted in Journal

Be Still. Be Quiet. Wait.

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But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” ~ Matthew 4:4

At times in our walk with God, there are certain words or phrases that become “proceeding words.” Basically, that means if we are to move forward there is a Word from the mouth of God that we need so we can proceed. It brings to mind a traffic light at a busy intersection. You cannot continue until the light turns green. Last year I found that I was led by several proceeding Words. A few of these were “be still,” “be quiet,” and “wait.”

It seems odd to call these three Words “proceeding” after all they seem to reflect something that would be more like a red light than a green. However, through obedience and to be honest some disobedience to these phrases, I discovered there is no end to what God can do when I follow His directions. As I would still and quiet myself and release my rights to speak on a subject or to move in any direction at all based on circumstances surrounding me, I would find myself being carried through that River of Life I wrote about yesterday. In the times of disobedience, I would feel more like I was stuck in the mud on the banks of a river than flowing in the River. Valuable lessons. Sometimes the only way to proceed is to actually stop proceeding (in the natural).

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. ~ Psalms 46:10

Psalm 46:10 is a familiar scripture and an obvious one on being still. But when I study all of Psalm 46 my heart stirs. It was written in the context of war – a song of victory with its emphasis on the Presence of the Lord with His people and the difference it makes when we trust Him completely during difficult times.

In times of crisis, some tend to pull away and some get busy. But He says, “Be still and know that I am God.” That is not talking about being passive. It takes work to be still in the middle of trying times. Even harder work to remain quiet. But hardest of all is probably to wait on the Lord. It is easier to get up and take action or to say something to try to change something of our circumstances.

I recently read a revealing story concerning this:

A company of American soldiers in Vietnam was pinned down and surrounded by the enemy. During this fierce battle, it appeared that the company commander was taking a nap! All ended well as help finally arrived, and the company was rescued from certain defeat and death. However, the commander was brought before his superiors to determine if he was guilty of neglect of duty and be court marshaled. The commander explained that he was not sleeping at all, but getting still and focusing on three questions: 

        – What is going on around us?

        – What is not going on around us?

        – What can we do about question 1 and question 2?

Instead of barking orders and reacting to what was going on around them, that commander got still so he could get the wisdom to keep his company alive until help arrived. Indeed, he was a very wise man and his ‘being still’ and ‘being quiet’ and ‘waiting’ saved the lives of his soldiers.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31

Posted in Journal

Peace Like a River

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In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”  ~ John 7:37-38

At the end of Sunday’s service one of our pastors started singing the song, “I’ve Got Peace Like a River,” and I have had it on my mind off and on since. It brings to mind “Rivers of Living Water.” It brings to mind also the power that a river has. It is a power that can carry you under or carry you through.

Many of us have been in such rivers this last year. In the river I was in, I felt I was being dragged under by some of the currents. In my natural mind, I wondered if I could make my way out alive…only to find out I couldn’t – but, I was carried out. I found that it was actually in that dragging under stage that my spiritual senses were awakened and developed. The Holy Ghost developed me to know God better there. I felt, saw, heard, smelled, and tasted more of things of the Spirit in those times this last year than all the previous years combined. It has been sometimes wonderful, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hard work, and sometimes a whole lot of fun. One thing was for sure though – I was awakened, and I know it.

But then recently I went through a few days where I seemed to feel asleep again rather than awake. Honestly, it was disturbing and no matter how much I told myself our Christian life it to be walked by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7) I could not help but feel disappointed in my heart. I wondered what was wrong with me.

Things started to turn back during my prayer time this afternoon when the words of that song started flowing again through my mind. So simple. “I’ve got peace like a river; I’ve got love like an ocean; I’ve got joy like a fountain”…and it became the prayer to my Father. As I prayed those words, I began to feel something big start to flow on the inside.

As believers, we have these “rivers of living water” flowing within us which means we are bigger and more powerful on the inside (in Christ) than on the outside (in the natural). In the natural, very little can stop the power of a river that is overflowing its banks. It can take out everything in its path. And that is the way the Kingdom of God is as well. Bigger on the inside than the outside. Overflowing. We must never lose the truth of this.

Sister Ruth Ward Heflin once said, “You don’t have to feel “full of glory” all the time. You can be an empty riverbed. Just let the river of God flow through you. The waters of God’s river are refreshing, cleansing and empowering. Just don’t stop with the refreshing stage, and don’t be satisfied with the cleansing stage. Move on into the empowerment of the river.

In reading this statement, I am always stopped by one word. “LET!” The word “let” is a great word. It means – to allow or to permit; to grant occupancy or use of; to cause to; to make.

I think the Lord is saying it is time for us to LET HIM move us into the empowerment of His Divine River. In God’s River, nothing can hold you back. Nothing! There is POWER there! You think you are going under at times but I am so confident tonight that you will find, as I did, that you are being carried by our God and developed by the Holy Ghost to know Him even more than you do.

Thank you, Jesus!!!! “I’ve got peace, love, and joy like a River in my soul!”  

 

 

Posted in Journal

The Process

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Late last night, I came upon a group discussion about writing processes. Someone asked us to explain our process. The question was, how do you come up with and complete what you write? Mostly, I write Bible Studies so I will focus my answer on my process to write and deliver those messages… although writing this blog isn’t too different.

We are all unique and God gave us different passions and abilities and afforded us different opportunities to learn and develop. I do have a process that I believe is God-given and that I was taught very well years ago.

Some people can retain easily and can preach or teach easily based on the knowledge they have in their heads and hearts and/or as God speaks at that moment. I seem to be created just a little differently. Speaking is very hard for me and the only reason I can speak is that God called me to do so and He sets me on FIRE to speak what He gives. Delivering a message aloud was the one thing I said I would never do again as I left the University. I said NEVER! But God said otherwise, and He alone gives me the courage. I can only do it through Him and because I have learned to put onto paper in a precise and understandable way my thoughts and my studies.

Last night someone called their process total immersion and I would agree with that for myself. I become totally immersed. I take a subject and/or a passage of the Bible, and I get totally involved. I read it. I question it. I study it. I think of it. I read it again and again and again. I study some more and as I study, I learn. Then I write.

It usually starts with a Bible verse or passage I feel God is speaking through at that moment – to ME! I develop an idea based on that passage. Usually, I have a title at this point. I pray about where to go with the idea and write a preliminary outline. I take many notes – about 40-50 pages of notes and my own thoughts. Then I begin putting each note or thought into my outline (or discarding it). Then with the draft before me, I begin rewriting.

Does this sound kind of like the term papers and presentations of high school and college? For me, it is very close to that same process except I don’t have to rely on notecards and typewriters as we did in the “olden days” and these days I love and appreciate not only the subject matter but the process it takes for me to learn and teach it.

Sometimes the process is painstaking, but when I am writing on the Bible, I have God-given energy and drive and I don’t seem to get writer’s block. In speaking, I sometimes lose my thoughts though they may be on the outline in front of me. But, when writing about the Word of God, if I don’t know where to go next…I go to the Scripture and say what happened next and leave it there…until the Lord gives insight if He does.

The finished work is about 15 typewritten pages between 5,000 and 8,000 words.

Because I have other responsibilities, the entire process takes about a week and is never finished until the message is given. Why? Because I continually edit. When I say continually, I mean until I leave my office to give the message. I have been known to reprint an entire document because the spacing was a little off. Isn’t it strange that I would care so much when I am giving the message verbally? But I do care.

I believe anything I put on paper should have a flow and be grammatically correct, just in case someone happens to pick it up someday. I am obsessive about finding the right words to make the right impact and for every word to be spelled correctly. Mostly I want anyone who picks up the written message to come away understanding what is written and knowing that I love God’s Word and I have presented and preserved what He has entrusted to the best of the abilities He gave me.

Once I give a message, I file it away knowing I have an outlined and fairly well-written document that God may decide to use again someday.

Now you know my process. And of course don’t worry about the errors, I will go back and edit this MANY, MANY more times too. LOL!

Thoughtful Gifts

Back in the summer of 1985 Dan and I took our very first vacation as a couple. We went to Cape May, New Jersey to stay for a few days with his sister, Mary Ellen and her family. During that trip, Mary Ellen and I went to a little market full of unique shops. That is a very common thing now but back then it was new to me. One of the shops was a Christmas shop and there I found some Wizard of Oz ornaments that I bought for my mom. They had a special place on her tree until 1996 when my sister passed away and my mom stopped putting up a Christmas tree. She later gave away all of her Christmas ornaments and my sister-in-law asked for the Wizard of Oz ornaments. Of course, I wasn’t going to say no to that request because I didn’t want to be selfish…but honestly, I found that most years I wished I had.

This year my daughter came to my house insisting I receive my Christmas present early. My present was the exact ornaments I had given to my mom back in 1985. Meagan had not seen these ornaments since she was 10 years old, but she had researched and then searched on eBay for several years to find them. I was blown away, to say the least. I love gifts like this. These many years later it is not so much the ornaments themselves, but it is that my daughter would give me such a gift. It was a gift that was so thoughtful and took effort and showed such love and care for me. I admit I don’t feel that I am often that kind of gift giver…but it touched my heart in an incredible way when I was on the receiving end. And receiving that gift made me so thankful that all those years before I had allowed my sister-in-law the originals.

Sometimes when we release things that are temporal, we make room for gifts that will last forever!

And then it dawned on me that I received mostly very thoughtful gifts this year in addition to that one. A beautiful necklace from a friend that meant so much because of the Word/words etched upon it; wool socks and cinnamon candy canes from my son because he knows I love these things; a notebook and pencil from the GKiddles so I can do my work; a beautiful mug (I do love my coffee); two identical antique Tiffany table lamps that were a heirloom to a relative’s family but no longer wanted, and a ripped up picture of my dad’s company when he graduated from boot camp at the age of 16… along with a letter from the Lieutenant Commander of the Navy to my grandparents that was so personal.

Then there is the most thoughtful gift of all and that is the gift given by our Father when He sent His Son, Jesus, to be born. To be born to die on an old rugged cross for my sins. He sent His Son and He sent me (and you) a Savior.

I pray that in this next season I can take a lesson from my family and friends and from my Heavenly Father and be more thoughtful and deliberate in my giving. Love you all and God bless you!