A Hush

This winter we have seen many pictures of snow covered roads throughout our country. Growing up in north Louisiana, our winters did not come with frequent snow storms. When snow or ice did come our way, everything was shut down as we did not have adequate equipment for treating roads, etc., in our area. What stands out to me of the few snow events we had is enjoying family time instead of going to school, making snow ice cream and having a fire in the fireplace.

Through the years since then, I have seen more snow events while living in both Maryland and Missouri. Although I am not a fan of living constantly in frigid temps as I can never seem to get warm, I enjoy a few days of the beautiful white blanket that will wrap our world. Not to mention that I love having a valid reason to curl up by a fire to read a good book while sipping on a mug of homemade hot cocoa. But the thing that stands out the most to me is that all seems still and quiet under the blanket of white.

The stillness. Just after the fresh snow has piled up, before the kids run out to start building snowmen or the adults start shoveling, all is quiet. In Missouri, I would step out onto our back deck and just listen. The quietness was beautiful and brought a blanket of peace that penetrated my being.

A hush. What if we felt that more often in our spirits? What if we felt that in our services? Like when the cloud fell in the temple. Can you imagine being among a group of believers who collectively sought that holy hush? One that clears away our agenda and lets God show up?

Raised in the church, I have seen many powerful services. I remember nightly revival services that saw salvations, healings, and more. I can still see the faces of people in our packed church as legs grew and hearing was restored. I remember the water baptisms at church and in the lake. I cannot begin to count how many of these types of services I have seen in my life. But a holy hush? Only twice. And I want more!

In college, I attended a service where David Wilkerson was speaking. I vividly recall the moment he fell to his face weeping, crying out, “I am undone!” The hush fell. And weeping could be heard throughout the building.

A few years ago, my husband was speaking to our church in Missouri. Half way through his message, God hit Raphael with His own love for His bride. As the feelings of God’s love washed over him, all my husband could do was fall on his face and weep. And the hush fell. Without words, people started coming to the altar. In time, he could speak but all he could do was express the Father’s love that was pursuing His bride. Time stood still We read of this happening in scripture, so why do we not expect it to happen today?

Ex 40:35 “Moses was unable to enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”1 Kings 8:11 “…..so that the priests could not stand there to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.”

Recently, my daughter told of a service at their church where someone had a prophetic word about a healing God wanted to do. No one responded at first. When the minister mentioned it again, a man spoke up for someone he knew who fit the description but was on the road traveling that day. They did something ‘nontraditional’ and called the young woman on her cell. With the entire church listening in, they heard as the woman pulled over while being prayed for by the minister. And they heard her excitement as she felt God’s healing touch. The church excitedly rejoiced. Then, as if on cue, the realization of what had just taken place hit those in attendance, and a holy hush fell. People started hitting the floor weeping over the incredible power of our holy God. It wasn’t random. It wasn’t orchestrated here on earth. It was a spontaneous, holy reverence experience by a group of people who shared the same hunger to see God move among His people.

Wrap me in your holy hush.

Like a child longing for that first blanket of snow to fall, my spirit longs for more ‘hushed moments’ in His presence. Not just in my personal alone time. But corporately. A shared time with a community that is seeking to know Him at a deeper level. A time when we are not rushed out the door in order for the next group to come in. A time when we allow Him to just sit and linger with us.

May I challenge you today? HUNGER for more of Him. It doesn’t just happen. There is a price to pay. And let me give a warning: it just might mess up your agenda!

Treasure the Gift

I still remember the first Christmas spent around my mother-in-law. The joy of celebrating the birth of her Savior was contagious. One thing that stood out to me was the fact that she did not rush to take down the decorations or tree. She savored every aspect of celebrating Christ’s birth and was in no rush to put away it’s representation. She taught me to relish the season longer.

Often the gifts given at Christmas represent sacrifice in one form or another. The hours spent earning money to purchase gifts. The time to shop and wrap. Time to travel. Planning. Cooking. It all represents something we choose to give. We choose to give to others because we want them to know our love for them and to know they are special in our lives. But too often we watch others tear into a package, smile at what is inside, thank the giver, then toss the gift aside to rush to their next wrapped treasure. The sacrifice of the giver is at most a fleeting thought. And the giver is often left wondering why they went to such great efforts.

Are we guilty of the same actions with our heavenly Gift? We enjoy our nativities and Christmas plays. The Carol’s are sung and family surrounds us. But come December 26th we are ready to move on to the next holiday celebration and pack up the meaning of the nativity with each painted figurine and place the box on the shelf. And state that we had a good Christmas.

A good Christmas. What is that really? Hopefully it is the fact of grasping the truth that it is not about trees and lights, presents or candles. It’s about a Gift of love that remains past tossed wrappings and precious memories. It lasts eternal.

Treasure the gift! Let it continue to wrap it’s warmth around you and carry you into this next year. It’s value is eternal.

A Swaddled Gift

“And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

Such a familiar passage. And yet it actually speaks a different language. It was a language the shepherds understood. And the angles knew the shepherds could recognize the deeper meaning when they heard of Jesus’ birth that night. The message spoke of things both present and future. And as we so often find in Scripture, there was much more significant meaning to those words than most of us in our modern, western world understand. So let’s break it down.

Location of Christ’s birth was Bethlehem. The hills around Bethlehem were home to thousands of lambs. These were not just any lambs. Hundreds of these lambs were used for the daily and annual sacrifices. With two lambs per day in the span of one year, Bethlehem probably saw the birth of over 770 sacrificial lambs, plus hundreds more for Passover and other feasts. In that day, when someone said, “Bethlehem,” the person hearing this heard, “sacrificial lambs.” Knowing that King David was from Bethlehem, we understand that this would have been the same area he would have raised sheep.

Watching over the flocks in Bethlehem were not just any shepherds. In order for a lamb to be deemed as a sacrificial lamb, the shepherds had to be trained for this holy act. These shepherds were priests who probably had these duties designated to them from their youth. They understood the instructions given in the law of Moses about the qualifications of lambs offered on the altar. And it was their responsibility to daily keep watch over these flocks. During lambing season, these priests took the sheep to this manger which was called Migdal Edar, or “watch tower of the flock.” Micah foretold that the daughter of Zion would see the Messiah come from Migdal Edar. (Micah 4:8) This watch tower was the station where shepherds brought the flocks designated for Temple worship.

Swaddled. Christ was swaddled. But what was so important about swaddling that the angels gave this detail to the shepherds? Again, it was their language. Swaddling was a practice they used for preparing the sacrificial lambs. At birth, two lambs were placed in a double-hewn depression of a limestone rock known as a manger…. in Bethlehem….at the tower. Here they wrapped swaddling cloths around the lambs to prevent them from thrashing around in order to keep them from ‘spot or wrinkle.’ When the angels spoke the words, “swaddling cloths, lying in a manger,” those shepherd priests knew that a baby was just born in the birthplace of sacrificial lambs and was wrapped up as a sign of having no spot or wrinkle – prepared to give His life in sacrifice for all.

In my mind’s eye, I see each strip representing a piece of the entire story. It all tied in that night with His death, His resurrection, our life in Him, and His coming return! How like our God, the very Artistic Creator, to use common, every day imagery to paint a brilliant story that is woven with so much love!

It was all there that night. Both the present and the future. The present events were very real. A woman travailed in pain to bring forth a baby. And a baby was swaddled to become the future sacrifice. It was God’s gift of love given to us that day, wrapped in torn strips of cloth, held tenderly by a young woman who would one day shed tears on a hill of death. This place where shepherds raised lambs, The Shepherd of our souls was born. It was all very present that night. And it is still present today. No matter where we are today, His swaddled gift of love still speaks of future hope. And it is still wrapped in love for all who hear the message and go seek for this gift.

Let’s do that today! Embrace His wrapped up gift of love!

It really is such JOY!

Never Alone

Many times in life we feel alone. Whether we are just dealing with our own emotions or if the truth is we are in a desert place in life, it has left us needing a voice of encouragement. When we find ourselves in need of that person in the flesh to help us think things through clearly but we have no one at our side, we still have One constant in life. Our Father. 

Moses was on the backside of a desert when God called him. He gave his reasons why it was impossible to obey. But God reassured him.

Ex 4:12 “Now go! I will help you speak and I will teach you what to say.”

Mentoring is about being there for each other. It’s teaching life lessons one on one and walking the visions out together. But when life’s road takes a different path than what out thoughts had painted in our minds, there is still that Mentor of our souls who is with us. He will teach us. Sometimes His teaching will come from our time spent with Him. Other times He will place in front of us tools for us to learn from. There have been many times in life where I was unsure how to accomplish a task before me. But then I saw someone else doing the same thing and I watched from a distance, took notes, and asked my heavenly Mentor how to adapt those tools for my personal task at hand.

We are to be walking in this life together. We should be actively involved in mentoring. But more importantly, we should always remember Who is to be our most important mentor of our hearts and souls. Our Father. Abba. God with us! Always our constant voice of encouragement. Take time to listen for Him today.

Faith as a Child

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Total peace.  That is what this picture portrays.  Yet it was not without a few tears.  This is little Roman – the newest member of our family.  Just minutes before capturing this picture, this grandma was bouncing and rocking for quite some time in an effort to quite the tears. Why? He instinctively knew I wasn’t Mom.

Even at 11 days old, he knew.  For 9 months his life blood came strictly from her. Even in the womb, he heard her heartbeat and voice, felt her emotional ups and downs. They walked together as two people but completely one as well.  Until birth separated him from her womb. And now if he is not in her arms, he misses that oneness with the one who travailed to bring him life. And he knows who still gives him daily nourishment.

Such a picture of what our spiritual lives should be!

Do I miss being with Him when time or events pull me away? Am I able to hear His voice even in the midst of the noise of a crowd? Do I still recognize who is the only One that can bring lasting peace and comfort? Do I remember the emotions He and I have shared through difficult times? He is to be my daily nourishment!

 

Consider again that oneness of a mom and the baby in her womb.  She feels every move that child makes.  She realizes that everything she eats effects another life that depends on her.  Every emotion she has, that child is aware of.  Wherever mom goes, the child is carried there as well.

Imagine that type of oneness with God. He knows every thought we have.  He feels every emotion and experience we walk through.  And for us…….that oneness would mean knowing His voice.  Feeling His love, anger, disappointment.  When He rejoices, we know.  When He cries for a lost soul, we know.  And the path He chooses to take in order reach out to someone, we are with Him…… because He is carrying us.

Shouldn’t it be like that?  Psalm 139 tells us that He was with us even while we were in our mother’s womb.  During those months, He was designing our every detail.  He was always there actively taking part in the development of our being. And when on earth, Christ prayed to His Father asking that we would be one with Them……..as was the original design at creation.  Us and Him.  Daily conversations.  And when something traumatic happens and life seems to thrust us out from that oneness, those are the times we should be seeking that to Hear that Voice above all others.

Search for Him today.  He promised that when you do, He will be there.

Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Not On My Watch!

“Dad says we should call 911.”

Nope!  Not this time.  Although the words were coming from a young medical student who had his family practitioner dad on the phone, I had my mind made up.  I replied, “No.  We will pray this through!”  I had seen this demon before.  Just hours earlier my husband had been discharged from and overnight hospital stay.  It had been two weeks of close calls with his life.  All symptoms pointed to a stroke.  And all tests showed nothing was wrong with him.  Despite the fact that the ER monitor registered his rates as 179/93, the doctors could see nothing triggering these episodes of symptoms.  And we were back home watching the symptoms start again.  I refused to call 911.  Not this time, Satan!  Not taking him today!  Not on my watch!!  Within minutes of prayer, he was up again and walking around.

It’s the slogan that often makes a good story line for a would-be hero.  The Marine, policeman, city leader, or whoever the good guy is in any particular story.  But what about the church?  Dare we speak those words into a situation?

A few years ago I had the privilege of attending a ladies retreat where my daughter was the speaker.  In one of the sessions, the same statement was emphasized.  And it has stayed with me. Yet what would it look like to really live out, “Not on my watch!”?

Let’s break this down.  A watchman both sounds the alarm and is prepared to defend.  He often will practice drill in order to keep his senses sharp.  We see this in Nehemiah 4.

“Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built.  And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.” 

Did you catch that?  Each of the workers were going along tending to their daily duties and yet remained on the alert to defend their family and community.  Their duties were rebuilding the city’s broken wall.  They realized that part of seeing to the needs of their families also meant making sure their city was protected from intruders who perhaps had evil intent.  And they were doing this as a team of workers.  Together.

Isn’t that how we should approach our relationships in Christ?  Working together.  Taking care of our families by also defending those connected to our families through the body.  Nehemiah gave a charge to the workers in verse 20, “Whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there.  Our God will fight for us.  Another “AHA!” moment!  When they heard the shofar, they were to come to attention, stop the work of building, and run to the aid of their friends.  The enemy was approaching and their community was at risk.

Standing in the gap for each other.  Protecting our families even while going about our daily lives.  It’s that state of mind where we remain alert in the spirit, listening for a possible spiritual shofar blast.  Times when you get an uneasy feeling and know you just need to pray.  Or when you recognize the pattern of attack, such as constant symptoms with no explanation, and you know it’s time to make sure the enemy realizes you have had enough!

One time I heard an audible voice call out to me in middle of the night.  Just one word. It was the name of a young man whose life was drowning in drugs.  I was immediately awake and praying for this precious soul.  Often God had placed this young man on my heart for prayer.  But this night I felt the urgency.   Later I learned that while I was praying, he was angrily speeding down the highway.  He did not come to Christ until a year or two later, but no doubt a tragedy was averted that night.

Once, after my husband had gone to lay down and rest, I was drawn to go in and pray for him.  I literally started crying and asking God not to take him.  I prayed until I felt a peace, then left the room.  When he was up a little later, he explained that a dark figure had crawled in the room and within minutes something was choking him.  He was being choked by the demon when I entered to pray.  Not on my watch!  The Spirit had sounded the shofar.  I used the sword.  We won the battle!

And there was the time I woke up to my eight-year-old daughter screaming from her room.  She had been battling with nightmares and that very night we had decided to anoint our doorposts and pray.   She awoke from a dream and saw red eyes watching her.  That made me angry!  How dare he defy my authority over him!!  Not on my watch!!  The commands starting flowing out of my very being.  He must go!!  That was the last night she battled the night terrors.

“When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”  Isaiah 59:19

A standard.  A standard is an object, such as a banner or flag, used for different occasions.  It often marks a rallying point in battle.  Flags raised as a standard usually are meant to represent the head of a state or a royal family and carries their emblem.  It’s presence speaks of power and authority for the one it is raised above.

 
 
Let’s put that together.  When God raises a standard, He has just initiated a shofar blast in the spirit in order to rally the watchmen to action.  And He has informed the enemy that He is giving the warriors His authority to break the back of the demonic forces.  It is then up to the warrior to choose to use that authority during his watch.
 

So what is happening to those around me during my watch?  Am I at alert while going about my every day life?  A soldier staying alert usually takes training.  Am I taking time to train in my spiritual weapons?  Am I dressing for battle?

I don’t know where you are today or what the enemy has thrown your way.  For me, he’s trying once again to take out several believers around me.  But he should know by now what my response is —-  NOT TODAY SATAN!   NOT ON MY WATCH!!!

Finding Me

Gods and demigods.  Spirits of ancestors.  Tribal rituals.  These characters are often found in the animated films.  And though in real life we know there is only one God, the story lines captivate even us adults.

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Spending time with my grand kids has become one of my favorite past times, and unless I have something else already planned, I jump at the chance to babysit my granddaughter who lives just around the corner.  To spend time with my grandson takes more planning as he lives in Dallas – six and a half hours away.  It might be a long drive, but the reward of time spent building that relationship is worth the drive.

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On one of my visits to Dallas, my daughter put on a movie that captivated my grandson.  He loves music and this particular film had plenty of musical pieces.  And the vibrant colors can be enchanting to the child’s imagination.  I admit that I was slightly disinterested at first as I have been watching the path that my beloved animated industry has been taking lately.  Yet knowing my daughter’s sensitivity to what she would allow to be in front of her son, I trusted her instinct and settled in for a family movie night with my grandson.

And God showed up!  That still small voice was speaking.  Even through the fictional gods and demigods, the true God chose to use the story line to speak my language.  To meet me right where I was struggling.

There is not really an explanation as to why I was less than interested when the movie started.  Perhaps skepticism. Or being tired from the long trip, followed by a busy day.  But whatever the reason, each scene started to draw me more into the story.  Gods and demigods put aside, the story of Moana, daughter of the village chief, had also captivated me.

(Spoiler alert!) Many years earlier, a demigod, Maui, had stolen the heart of the life-creating goddess, Te Fiti.  This destroyed the goddess and created the evil lava monster.  And the monster’s evil was growing, spreading across the miles of land and sea, and destroying all that it touched.  Death is what followed.  But this young woman, daughter of the village chief who had never left her island, did what had been forbidden.  She crossed the reef of their island, sailing on the waves of the sea toward the horizon.  Her goal was to find Maui and make him return the heart in order to save her dying island.

Then WHAM!  The climax of the movie!  The confrontation with truth.  It was that moment when the Moana starts walking toward the lava monster, Te Ka, as she has discovered where to replace the stolen heart.  This act would restore Te Fiti to true goddess status.  Each step she takes toward the lava monster, each crescendo of the music that built up the moment, and every word sung, flew its own arrow straight to my heart.  And I found myself back to that familiar question, “Who are you?”

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Through streams of tears, I played and replayed that last scene.   Moana had seen the truth.  She saw through the anger and hurt of the lava monster.  She saw what had been stolen with the heart.  She saw the beauty that was hidden behind the fire which had brought fear to many people through the years.  In the midst of the hot, fiery lava was the hidden goddess.  Although she almost turned back, no longer believing she had what it took to complete the task, something kept drawing her to continue on.  Alone.

Back on her journey, she finally makes it to the destination.  And knows it is time to face what had been feared.  Te Fiti, bound by the evil known as Te Ka, sees the heart and longs to be restored to herself.  The would be goddess lurches toward her freedom.  As the Moana steps closer, her words echo, “I have crossed the horizon to find you.  I know your name.  They have stolen the heart from inside you.  But this does not define you.  You know who you are.  Who you REALLY are.”  (Time to bring out the tissues!)

It is an age-old question.  Yet many still do not realize it’s deeper meaning.  Who are you?  Really?

Not: What is your name?

Not: What do you do for a living?

Not: Who is your family?

Instead –  WHO ARE YOU?

Years ago, while pastoring in Missouri, God led my husband to talk about breaking the patterns in our lives that were shown to us by others.  We are creatures of habits.  So often we set our table the same way grandma did because, you never know, “she just might be watching from heaven.”  He explained how we often discipline our kids the way our parents disciplines us.  The way we talk, our mannerisms, often are actions we have learned through what was mirrored to us as children.  Old patterns passed from one generation to the next.  Yet those patterns many times often represented human opinions of how things should be handled instead of God’s true nature.  For about three weeks, you could almost hear a pin drop among our small congregation.  The words were hitting deep inside many of those listening as they realized the old patterns had brought much hurt that needed healing.  Others realized the damage they had done to their own kids because they had followed unhealthy patterns.

At the same time our church was walking through this teaching, our women were scheduled to attend a conference.  When we arrived that first night, you could still sense where some of the women were in their processing of the things they were learning.  We entered into worship and I watched as different individuals ministered to each other.  Then came the first speaker.  She was giving her testimony.  And, like He always does, God showed that He had planned the timing of this event.  The speaker shared how she had fought depression and went to see a Christian counselor.  And he asked, “Who are you?”  And she proceeded to share of her journey to wholeness and finding out who she really was in Christ.  Who she was created to be.  Her gifts.  Her calling.

After that weekend, I realized it was time to start a Bible study with these ladies and help them on their journey of finding out who they truly were… at the very core of their being.

Looking back, I take such joy in seeing the fruit that was a result of our small group of ladies.  None of us have reached the status of perfection, but each of have grown so much along the journey.

Since a child, I have always known who I was in Christ.  Yet often I did not recognize that even in my knowing, I still did not have the full picture of how He wanted to use my giftings.  In the last 10 years, I have watched as one by one my dreams have been shattered.  My trust has been betrayed.  My heart broken.  And, yes, I have had those times of questioning if what I believed was all just my imagination or actually God’s plan from the beginning.  In the midst of the hurt and disappointment, I lost me.  I lost that confidence of who I was.  Now began my journey once again to find healing of my wounds.  And to find me in the midst of a confusing time.

In the midst of my journey, He has stripped away my thoughts of what my calling should ‘look like.’  I am a pastor.  I am a teacher.  I am a minister.  But above all, I AM A DAUGHTER OF THE MOST HIGH GOD!!

As a pastor, we picture a building full of people.  But honestly, a pastor is one who continually looks after the care of others.  I can do that through email or text or social media.  I can do that over coffee.  Or lemonade.  I can do that through the phone on a weekly call.  Because who I am is not tied to a building or a denomination or a group of people.  It is tied to My Heavenly Father.  It is tied to The King!  My confidence is in knowing I am His.  People, circumstances, or positions do not define me.  Only Christ has that right in my life.

 

What about you?  Do you know who you are?  Or have you lost you?  As the Rita Springer worship song says, “When I thought I lost me, You knew where I left me, You reintroduced me to Your love.  You picked up all my pieces, put me back together, You are the defender of my heart.”

He has my heart.  He is my Defender.  He is my lover.  He is ABBA!  Father God!  And me?

I am a victorious daughter of the most High King!  I am a Priest in His Kingdom!  And I win!!

I found me again……..in the midst of the mess……..He held my heart in His hands…..and held me in His arms.

And He has you……….Go!  Find you again!  He will replace your heart and restore your dreams.