Posted in prayer

Pray lest you fall

Well it has happened. I fell asleep in the prayer room this morning. Dozed off, nodded off…never imagined I would. Most especially didn’t imagine it since I popped up and was ready to face the day at 5am because I couldn’t sleep. So eager. There is just something about falling asleep during prayer that really humbles you. I am reminded of the disciples and their same struggle. How often I have judged them…and now I have lived it, kind of. What did Jesus say to them…pray lest you fall into temptation? What did He say to me? Pretty much the same thing the first time I woke up and the second. As I left I did so just as I imagine Peter did, determined to prove I hadn’t failed terribly and that I could overcome. Even to standing up and cutting off an ear of the enemy…acting first thinking later out of a passion to prove something. That same determination and proof— a failure as well.

Yes it happened. The temptation, the frustration, the battle, the failure. All I had to do was stay awake and pray, but I couldn’t.

Posted in prayer

Blessed are the Poor

Have you ever just had one of those days where despite problems everything fell into place in a way that you just knew God was in control and you felt like something was going to happen? You may have to much on your plate and have not even gotten through half of your “to do” list but even still a sense of peacefulness has fallen. Looking at the clock, you wonder if time has stopped or something. Have you ever asked God to allow your steps to be His steps and to prevent you from straying from those steps…even if just for today…and then been totally surprised by His steps and that He answered your prayer? This has been my day and I am very aware that if I don’t follow exactly I will be off the path that was created. I feel urgency in my writing and in my heart.

I began the afternoon with a need to pray but not really knowing what for. I know to pray for the needs of others and the church and myself but today I sensed that this was not the day to pray for the usual. This was a different need. Since I didn’t know that need, I began praying the scriptures. I just opened my Bible randomly and began. The scripture for this time was Isaiah 61:1-3. Wow…I love Isaiah.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

I meditated on the words anointing and poor but all my mind could see was love. Why love? Doesn’t even mention love. Maybe since I have had God’s love on my mind lately. I understand the concept of anointing and anointing for power to preach… but I began to think that maybe something like love could change a person much easier and more completely than preaching-even good preaching. (umm sorry to some of you ; )I wondered if it was necessary or helpful to be anointed to love— in a radical way? To love like God loves? Could God’s radical love flow through you if you didn’t feel particularly anointed to love? Or is everyone equally gifted in this area since after all, God is love. And what about the poor? Who are the poor? Why even call out the poor? It can’t be just an economic description although we can’t ignore that. It almost has to be the poor spiritually, the poor emotionally, the poor physically? How does God want us to take care of the poor? There are just so many. In fact, could not most people be found poor in some area of their lives…so are we not called to care for what would seem everyone? Everyone!! All of them? What is He saying?

As I finished prayer, I picked up a book that has been a source of devotion for me for the last weeks by Henri J.M. Nouwen titled Here and Now. This was part of what I read:

“Jean Vanier, the Canadian who founded a worldwide network of communities for mentally disabled people, has remarked more than once that Jesus did not say: ‘Blessed are those who care for the poor,’ but ‘Blessed are the poor.’ Simple as this remark may seem, it offers the key to the kingdom. I want to help. I want to do something for people in need. I want to offer consolation to those who are in grief and alleviate the suffering of those who are in pain. There is obviously nothing wrong with that desire. It is a noble and grace-filled desire. But unless I realize that God’s blessing is coming to me from those I want to serve, my help will be short-lived, and soon I will be ‘burned out.’ How is it possible to keep caring for the poor when the poor only get poorer? How is it possible to keep nursing the sick when they are not getting better? How can I keep consoling the dying when their deaths only bring me more grief? The answer is that they all hold a blessing for me, a blessing that I need to receive. Ministry is, first of all, receiving God’s blessing from those to whom we minister. What is this blessing? It is a glimpse of the face of God. Seeing God is what heaven is all about! We can see God in the face of Jesus, and we can see the face of Jesus in all those who need our care. Once I asked Jean Vanier: ‘How do you find the strength to see so many people each day and listen to their many problems and pains?’ He gently smiled and said: ‘They show me Jesus and give me life.’ Here lies the great mystery of Christian service. Those who serve Jesus in the poor will be fed by him whom they serve: ‘He will put on an apron, set them down at the table and wait on them’ (Luke 12:37). We so much need a blessing. The poor are waiting to bless us.”

Amazing. God put a whole new light on a piece of His Word for me; a whole new light in my heart. Is He beginning to answer my prayer and change my heart? A heart that has seen too much, heard too much and stopped really feeling some things long ago. Is He changing my skepticism, negativity and frustration with such a needy world by giving me a vision of the possibilities- the possibilities of sharing His love and sharing in His love and sharing Him? Even sharing His love with Him. Even sharing in His love by sharing Him. Strange thoughts to me.

Then it was as though God Himself were asking me these next questions…Melissa, how do you view the family that walks right past your house every day because they can’t afford the gas or the car to put it in? How do you view the homeless with their signs and cups? How do you view those that are so anxious and stressed that they won’t allow themselves to slow down and see Me even as they sit fidgeting in church? How do you view the prostitute, the drug addict, the gang member? How do you view the lonely? How do you view those in nursing homes or those in their own prisons of disease- those with Alzheimer’s or Aids? How do you view those that have just been beaten down through prejudice and hate and neglect? How do you view the housewife that seems to have it all but keeps herself so busy that she doesn’t have the time to really check her heart? Melissa, how do you view Me?

You know, I am just trying to get to the end of a very busy day and on to the next prayer meeting, but today I can hear God’s voice calling me to go by the nursing home to visit someone I haven’t checked on in a while. Someone I really only know as acquaintance but someone still so familiar to something within my soul. Because of old age and illness, I will probably never really get to know this person, but somehow we connect and she has something for me that I desperately need. I’ll leave work and make it happen and you know I honestly can’t wait because I know in my heart I am meeting Jesus there.

Isn’t it wonderful that those that a part of the world would consider profoundly lacking in some way are actually chosen by God to be bearers of a profound grace of God’s presence? Shouldn’t that give us all Hope? And as I run to that nursing home should I not be singing praises knowing that I am getting ready to have just a glimpse of the face of Jesus, my own Savior?

You know, I don’t have it together so please, please don’t think that I even think I do because here is the real test that is yet to be taken. If I ever pass it maybe then I will know for sure I have a revelation and understanding of a love that has changed me. Radical true love…God’s love flowing in me and through me.

The test- If I knew that Jesus was not going to be there today and it was just going to be a lonely lady in a tattered and soiled nightgown that would cling to me physically in desperation and cry out horribly when I leave. If I knew she would never ever remember my visit or my name (on this earth or in the next), would I still drop everything, sing praises, and go?

Posted in Journal

Seek HIM First!!

Last week I wrote these words in an email to someone….

“… I am going to a Morningstar conference this week…not to be fed although I might be in some way. I am going mostly because I support Heidi Baker and the work that she does through Iris Ministries and I want nothing more than to go and minister with her in Mozambique for a month, hopefully soon. God put this ministry on my heart…I don’t know why but He definitely did it to the point that it has become one of the desires of my heart. He in bringing Heidi to Charlotte and so I go. I will hear her message and see what God is doing there and in my life. Will I be fed? Probably God will feed me in a more unexpected way but I don’t know. God is God and He can do what He wants. I know this, God has set this one up so I am just going to sit back and see what He does.”

well this is what God did…

Very first minute of the conference this cute little girl comes to me excited because her name is also Melissa. She asks me “of all those that are speaking this weekend who do you most want to hear from?” Without hesitation I said, “Heidi Baker!!!” Oh! Heart revealed!! as those words escaped my heart and rolled off my tongue. I immediately came under conviction, but too late. HE IS A JEALOUS GOD! Had my heart been where God wants it, I would have wanted to hear from Him. Too late! Couldn’t take back those words no matter how much I wanted to. No use even trying. I felt almost sick and I am pretty sure I felt His heartache. The musicians started singing a song that said God doesn’t get disappointed in you. Was this true? Sure felt like disappointment. I had failed and repentance was my only option and I did repent and I cried out to a God that is so merciful to me and yet I knew that sometimes there is just a price. Too hard on myself? I’m not convinced.

In the excerpt above I said that God would probably feed me in a more unexpected way. Was I being fed through discipline? If so, this wasn’t the cozy comfort meal I thought I was going to get. From that first moment and then all weekend God spoke about setting up idols. Idols in people like Heidi Baker and idols also in the things going on around me. Although the seeking for “more” may be great, I heard Him say to check myself in things going on around me during this conference…things such as prophecy and miracles and healing; things such as the books I buy and read and even the worship music. I felt God say things may be good and even be of Him, but for me not to make the same mistake twice….”seek Me first in all things” and I remembered Pastor Sammy’s teaching that some of these things are signs following after and I understood that even the music, which we many times say leads us into worship, can only lead as it follows a heart that is in the right place of seeking Him first.

Heidi Baker never came. Because of schedule conflicts her time of ministry was changed to a conference for this upcoming week. Right or wrong, Morningstar never told this until the very end. But as God dealt with my heart, I knew somewhere deep within and even beyond understanding in a way I can write about.

Very early yesterday morning I left the conference. I was confused and feeling very much “put in my place.” Honestly, I was also disappointed and empty and sad and almost desperate. My experience was not at all the refreshment I sought so I am left to wonder at what the Lord is doing. I know in my mind that the Father’s discipline and His love cannot be separated and I do so want to know His love in my heart. I have the option to go to some of the night services over the next couple of days to see Heidi Baker and hear her message on God’s love. I will opt out for reasons that have nothing to do with any offense or even disappointment and continue with my regular life and work schedule. Somehow I feel I have already heard what Heidi will say at the conference and would even say to me if I could speak to her one on one, SEEK HIM FIRST!!!! and here I have heard it from God Himself.

Posted in Journal

The Glory and the Burden of God

Saturday during my weekly prayer walk I was blown away by the Glory of GOD!! After a time of difficult prayer and pressing in as best as I know how -I asked God, as Moses asked, to show me His glory. I found myself remembering the Lord’s response to Moses’ request, “I will make all my goodness pass before you.” God summed up His glory with one word – goodness. God’s glory and goodness the same?? hmmmm. As I continued walking, I began thinking about the account in Genesis of how God with each creation declared “it is good” and with the creation of man declared “it is very good.” I heard God say in my spirit, “My glory, my goodness is all around if you see with open eyes.” I could say I opened my eyes but I believe actually God opened them because the praise that was birthed in me and what I saw in and through that praise for the remainder of the walk was like nothing I have ever experienced…an intense mixture of song and sorrow. Each flower, smell, sound, each person I passed or prayed for seemed to just shine through the eyes and ears, well– really all the senses of my spirit with a different kind of beauty. I found myself praising like never before for even the rocks and the weeds. But then each thing that I praised God for, the very same creations that shone with such glory, I saw also reflected a burden that almost ripped my heart to shreds. I knew it as a burden that could only have been His.

This was Saturday morning. It was July 4th and as I walked I was able to see those I considered the best of the best as I watched people giving up a holiday morning to joyfully work behind the scenes for the Lord. I saw the glory as if it were clothing them and it brought rejoicing to my heart. Almost immediately though my thoughts and prayers were taken to one of God’s creations that at that same moment in time was only known to me as a serial killer…terrorizing a neighborhood, and my own family- killing their friends. I considered this man probably the worst of the worst and yet right there I was faced with the truth that God had declared him at creation as good. God loved and died for him just as much as for the one I labeled “best.” I had to lay aside my need for understanding and declare in unison with God that what He had created in each was equally good. I found myself begging for his life to be spared and for the salvation of his soul more than I was even asking God for an end to the violence. The Glory of God and the burdens of God are not exclusive. The Glory of God is GOOD but it also carries a weight that is offensive to my natural mind and so it was easier to try to separate them.

I have been fasting and praying for months, asking for a burden for souls and here it was quite suddenly and unexpectedly intermingled with God’s glory like the blackberry bushes next to the pond…you can see the berries from a distance so you know they are beautiful and you know that they are probably sweet but you have to get through the thorns of the same bush to experience them in all the ways God intends…even the thorns are His creation with a purpose and GOOD, a burden necessary for the Glory.

Still blown away : )

Posted in Journal

The Blessing of Prayer

As I reflect on the changes that have occurred in my life since I came into this season of prayer I find myself weeping out of gratitude and amazement.  I could never have imagined all that has happened and I find it hard to give it language.   The woman here today is not the person that said “yes, Lord” ten months ago.  God has been busy.

I won’t lie.  This has not always been a fun season of life.  I’ve never cried so much, nor felt so lonely, nor felt so much like my very life was being sucked out of me with each passing moment in prayer.  I know that sounds negative, but it is truth.  I should have anticipated a breaking of sorts and the Lord knows I needed it but I didn’t understand the entirety of what I signed up for.

I came to the prayer room thinking I had it somewhat together.  I came healed of extreme fears.  After years of having none, I came with lots of friends.   I thrived on knowing and being known.  God had healed me and given me what I thought was the desire of my heart but then God asked me if I loved Him enough to give it all back and allow Him to show me true desire.  In asking me into the prayer room, He took me out of the excitement and comfort of the social bonding that happened for me in the sanctuary setting and that had honestly become a distraction to my worship.

Clearly God was not impressed by my need for many friends.  During these months, He has wanted me mostly to Himself.  God has shown me where I created idols out of friendships and leadership.  One by one false idols have been stripped away and I found myself in a place that was lonely and barren.  It was there though that God showed me that my greatest issue was that I still had a deep fear of rejection by Him and that I had incredible animosity against Him.  I didn’t really trust God.  Actually most things I struggle with have roots in this distrust.  Is God really who He says He is?  Will He really do everything He has promised?  Can He really restore, even what has died?  Can I really give Him my whole life?  That God loves me enough to ask me to change has transformed my life.  God has proven faithful time and again to encourage me, answer my many questions and to show me how much He really likes the ME that He created.

In saying yes…I signed up for a life that is different and wholly other than what the world thinks of as a successful life.  I didn’t know that my life would be “ruined.”  I didn’t know that I would have, for the remainder of my days, an unsatisfied ache.  I didn’t know that I was preparing for the last days and the return of my Savior (which was one of my biggest shocks).  I didn’t know that to say yes meant that I could be blessed with the deeper things of God during this life and the one to come and to say no and lock myself behind my safe religious traditions meant risking my heart growing cold to those deeper things.  (Not that I would be separated from God’s love but that I would close the door to greater awakening and deeper revelations that He has prepared for me.  I don’t know about you but I want the deep…same old, same old doesn’t work anymore.)  I didn’t know that this radical, fasted lifestyle would sometimes be messy; that it meant eating less, spending less, sleeping less so I could get up or stay up for prayer.  I didn’t realize that my pursuits would disrupt the lives of those around me.   I didn’t know that some would be so offended by my prayer life and or that they might think I had gone crazy.  That my credibility would be challenged.   Jesus said that we would be reviled because He was reviled but in return we would have what can’t be taken away…I didn’t understand what couldn’t be taken away was knowledge of this beautiful Man.  I didn’t know that it would be possible to walk in power and authority or that even the smallest efforts of giving, fasting and praying could unlock my heart.   I didn’t know that the cost would be great but the reward far, far greater.

Here I go weeping again…

It has been hard to give adequate language to everything I feel but it boils down to this…I have fallen in love with Jesus Christ and He’s bid me come and die so that I may actually live.  I said yes and embarked on a journey to spend eternity experiencing Him and His love and seeking out a comprehension of God and His Glory.  What can be greater?

What do you say when God asks to take you to a place of death to self only to realize that what will rise from the ashes is a hunger that can never be satisfied by anything less than the presence of the Lord?  What if He asks you to persevere?  What if He asks you, as He did me… “If you have to contend for the next twenty years before seeing your ministry fulfilled…will you still contend?  Will you still go for it?”  or, “If I send one hundred people into the prayer room next week, will you pray less?”  Wow…like the disciples so long ago the words that came out of my own mouth put the last ten months into perspective, if just for me.… “This is who I am and it is all I know anymore.”

Even though I have often been in barren and lonely places, God has shown me that I am most definitely not alone.  There are groups of hungry people coming together in this church and all over the world. They are people God has awakened and He is working in their hearts and lives. I find myself in an army on fire and desperate for the things of God and an army willing to pay the price to see it all come to pass.  This is not something we invented.   God gave this call and this desire and I believe He is calling each of us…He really is.

Posted in Journal

Lone Goose

There is a lone goose on the Life Church property. I noticed it in our field during our prayer walk last Saturday. I told Linda, my prayer partner, that we needed to pray for someone that was grieving the loss of their mate, although I didn’t know who. I knew though that geese mate for life so you usually see them in pairs. Even if one is left behind because of injury the other will stay instead of moving on with the flock. This goose was just standing there. Didn’t move or anything. So we prayed. It was still there yesterday.

Several years ago Busch Gardens in Williamsburg invited Fabio to attend the opening of a new roller coaster called Apollo’s Chariot. Fabio was dressed up as Apollo with a coaster full of goddesses dressed in white. During that first ride Fabio was hit in the face by a goose (or Fabio hit a goose). It sent him to the hospital…it killed the goose. National news. What probably didn’t hit the national news though was that in the next days another goose started exhibiting odd behavior just outside the park. Park officials had to have it removed to assure the safety of the guests. They tried putting it elsewhere. It died shortly after. It was widely held belief that this goose was the mate grieving it’s loss.

This lone goose makes me sad and touches my heart. This morning I was thinking of the goose but this time in a little different way. I saw the goose and I saw Jesus standing out in that field all alone grieving and waiting for us (His church, His bride) to return to Him.

Posted in Hiding His Word

thoughts on Philippians 1 and 2

LOVE- Paul walked in love. Not love as we sometimes know it but I think love as Jesus defined it and walked. Not only did he walk in this love though, he hoped and expected that we should walk in that love as well. Just as Christ loved us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul loved us (each of us/the church-you can tell that from what he writes) and expected that love in return…but considered that when he didn’t get it to have entered into the suffering of Christ. He had relationship with God so intimate that He could be a true empty vessel for Christ to show love but also to experience pain for His cause. What kind of love did Jesus walk? That question to myself took me straight to 1 Corinthians 13 where that love is defined. We have read it hundreds of times but this time I read it in the Amplified Bible and where I have often almost patted myself on the back thinking I had this love thing down pat. I got to these next verses and there I found conviction. vs. 5 Love (Gods love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. Then vs. 7 Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening] How to walk in Christ no matter what. You know for the words “Grace and Peace” the Amplified Bible says “Grace (favor and blessing) to you and [heart] peace from God our Father the the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah).” I liked that and am really learning a lot from the Amplified during this season of my life. Anyway, I think if the church could walk in true love…the Divine Love of Jesus Christ and our Father…then we would have NO LIMITS. It is the greatest commandment. I believe that the presence of God and God’s glory will be manifested when we are sitting in unity with each other and are vessels of that Divine Love both inside but also outside of our four walls. Then we will see miracles, signs, wonders, revelation, obedience, deep relationship, true freedom and incredible manifestations as an everyday occurrence. We will not look on ourselves proudly or boast in our sufferings but look on our sufferings as the ultimate act of worship for our Lord. WOW! I would like to experience such a church.

FEAR – There is good fear and not so good fear. Fear of the Lord is essential. In Hebrew one definition of fear was AWE. I use the word awesome all the time but have I really experienced awe. Sitting at Hatteras looking at the ocean and thinking about how God said to that ocean…”this far and no further”…I feel true awe. Awe moves you. Not necessarily a physical move but could be…definitely a move on the inside. Fear defined as caution may be healthy fear. I fear guns in the hands of children. I fear poisonous snakes or people driving wrecklessly. Healthy fear though is not all consuming. Then there is that other kind of fear. If fear can be defined as awe then perhaps it can also be defined as worship. Anything that we fear or obsess over we worship. If we fear what others think of us then we fear man and are worshipping man. If we fear the financial situations then we are worshiping money. If we fear death then who are we are worshiping?

COMPLAINING AND ARGUING – Says in 2:14 to do everything without complaining or arguing. Do not complain or argue. That is directed at the church and is great advice. Sometimes we tend to complain and think our complaining is justified because we think we know something that others don’t, but these are never acceptable. Sometimes we argue and call it debating or bantering and I have seen more than one church split due to what started as arguing that someone called banter. When you get to vs. 15 it says why he wants you not to do that… I know that God has said to me on more than one occasion, “STOP arguing with ME. I only want to change you for good.” Isn’t it always amazing how much you can learn when you stop arguing with God?

Posted in Journal

My Baptism Testimony

Psalm 30:11-12   11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.   You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,   12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.  O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!

When I was eight years old I walked down the aisle of our church and professed my faith in Jesus, and I was baptized three weeks later. It was an incredibly significant day in the life of my family but for most of my life, I silently questioned whether either of these experiences was authentic.

Then a little over a year ago an old friend sent me an email that contained a testimony and one question -so what has God been doing in your life?  I couldn’t answer it.  I was baffled and it made me angry.  At the time I couldn’t see that He had been doing anything. Some things had happened in my life that left me feeling betrayed and abandoned by God.  And at a time when I should have run toward Him, I ran away and lived a life ruled by fear.  Therapy, medications… nothing worked.  I was afraid of everything.  People, new places, and new experiences.  I could not have walked in the door of Life Church. I couldn’t even walk out to my mailbox or open the door to a knocking neighbor.  I hid in my home and went nowhere outside my home alone.  I thought I had tried everything and there was no hope for me. However, that morning while sitting in my dining room floor, I began feeling such intense loneliness that I was pretty sure I was dying, I finally became desperate.  Clinging to the testimony sent from an old friend, as the only hope I could see for me…I said a prayer and reached out to God.  I asked for help and I asked for Him. Jesus helped me alright.  On that day God set into motion what He had already started and things came together in a way that I would never be able to deny and can only describe as a miracle.  Jesus rescued and saved me.  I can say that I know it. On that day, He grabbed my outstretched hand and pulled me into His arms.  Then the Holy Spirit took hold of me and began to speak to me, and we had an encounter that broke me and then changed me and healed me.

This past year God has changed me so much….but even after all He has done for me, I was still filled with so much pride that I wouldn’t even think about baptism. I didn’t want to put myself out there and do something so public and outside my comfort zone. So I put His command in my hand, and I closed it.  And God has been incredibly loving and patient with me.  However, the Holy Spirit started speaking to me a couple of months ago when I walked up to this altar, and I said “More God, I want more”….and you know what He said?  “Me too- Open your hands.”  And He started using the Wednesday night Bible study and the service of a few weeks ago. On that day, I didn’t go to the altar but not because I didn’t need the Holy Spirit to do a work in me.  I didn’t go because I was ashamed that I was still hesitating.  Pastor Sammy and others were talking about revival and repentance.  I was scared and just wanted to run and hide- because I knew I was part of the problem. God had told me specifically what to do, and I hadn’t.  But instead of running something in me once again asked for help.  And He said “open your hands or you are just pretending to serve me.”  That hit me hard and I felt incredible sorrow. I mean He died for me and I say I love Him. I have to thank God for that sorrow because although it was excruciating at times, I again found myself changed and opening my closed hand became not just the fulfillment of a command but a way that I could show Jesus that do give Him back my love and my life.  It is something I now want to do.

So today I stand here and I can say with all my heart that I trust Christ and put my faith in Him alone.  To me faith is believing that God is here right now and that everything comes from His hands, even sorrow- not by anger but by mercy and love and in fulfillment of His will.  And no matter what He ever asks me to do or allows me to go through; I never again need to live in fear because He will never abandon me to go through it alone. And today I will follow the example and command of Jesus, and I will be baptized.