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Let's IGNITE 

In prayer for the world this morning. I happened to listen to a video about Americans forgetting the events of 911 and the many who died either in the attack itself or trying to save the survivors. Americans swore to “never forget” yet here we are 16 years later burning flags and tearing each other apart. How quickly we digress. How many natural disasters have occurred in the last 16 years leaving more devastation, more death? A presidential election brings out the absolute worst in many people. People group up according to their personal soap boxes and spew their poisons on any platform they deem fit. They set out to cause social distress and violence. Darkness beyond belief is being exposed and the hearts of many are sickened, saddened and overwhelmed.  

“Where do I begin to pray God?” 

I pray for our President who has an overwhelming task before him of “fixing it.” 

But he can’t fix it, only God can 

I repent for our ways and thought patterns molded by generations of complacency and a general falling away from moral value and God’s Word leaving our children to flounder in doing whatever makes them feel good.  

I pray that our world will turn to God, will turn away from what is evil.  

I remembered the scriptures in Revelation 3 

15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! 17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. 18 So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. 19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. 

20 “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 21 Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. 

22 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” 

This is Jesus talking to the CHURCH! Not the world who don’t know God, but to the church. 

How do we get their attention, God? The ones who have plenty seem to have no need of You. The ones who are struggling turn away in anger. What is my role here? How can I help You, God? The world needs You, but they don’t want to do what You say in Your word. They don’t believe, they don’t see, they don’t hear, they make fun of what they don’t understand. How can I reach out to the world when my influence on my own friends and family doesn’t bear the fruit I want to see. 

The Christians, for the most part, are going through the motions and think they are fulfilling their weekly requirements of attendance. I feel an overwhelming sense of urgency and yet I watch as the churches reorganize, redecorate, recalculate, recalibrate and life goes on while little changes in the hearts of man. 

And how about church leadership? Many are burned out. The fire they had when they dreamed of becoming a pastor and getting into ministry has been gleaned and gleaned. The parishioners want someone else to fill their cup, and they expect the pastor to do that for them. The leadership plan and implement all sorts of ways for their flock to get fueled and this becomes a huge well-oiled machine, yet little changes in the hearts of man.  

I don’t know why God says above that he wished we were either hot or cold. Hot for God is obviously being on FIRE with passion and obedience. Perhaps a cold heart is easier to ignite than a heart that is lukewarm. Think of stepping into a hot tub that is hot and bubbling and how great it feels. If I stepped in and it was cold, I would want to get out! But if I stepped into a lukewarm tub, I may not even notice the water touching my skin. I may sit a while hoping that it would heat up soon. Maybe that’s what some are doing in church…. they are sitting a while waiting for something to happen. Waiting for a personal sermon just for their life, a song that ministers to their heart, a prayer that changes things, a miracle to confirm their belief in God, or for everything to suddenly make sense as to why they are even on the planet. Nonetheless…. waiting. Some have given up waiting in a pew, so now they are waiting at home. They sleep later on Sunday mornings and have the weekend to themselves as a mini-vacation they have earned for a week’s work. They still profess to believe in God and call themselves Christian, but church just isn’t doing anything for them. Or they church hop looking for fire. They are LUKEWARM & self-absorbed. 

How I long to see a FIRE INFUSED movement of God! How I long to see reformation in the hearts of man! I’m not looking to see people acting crazy, I want to see people HEALED, CHANGED, RENEWED, WHOLE in mind, body and spirit, filled with JOY and PEACE. I want to see people freed up enough to LOVE. I want to see people turn back to God and away from things and mindsets that destroy them from the inside out. Revival? Yes, but not an event that comes and goes. I want the world to know You God, but I must begin where I have been planted. What do I do from here?  

John Wesley was quoted to say, “I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn.” Let it begin Lord. I think of a candlelight service where one flame touches the candle next to it until an entire congregation is aglow. We need to ask God to fan our individual flames and then make a place, make room, make time for those around us to catch on FIRE. How else are we going to be effective in heating up the lukewarm and sending them out for the cold hearts? If we keep doing the same things, the same way expecting a different result, then we are just insane. That’s the quote, correct? There’s nothing wrong with programs…… just don’t make it the main thing. GOD is the main thing, He is everything. Jesus is our everything and our way maker. The Holy Spirit is our fuel. Let’s IGNITE!

Is God an addition to your life or is He the Source? 

I am reading in 1 Samuel about when the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites in battle. They placed it beside the statue of their god Dagon. The statue of Dagon would fall on its face 3 nights in a row laid out before the ark and the 3rd time its head and hands broke off. Then their people began to develop tumors. It was moved to 3 locations with the same outcome. The Philistines were willing to recognize God as one of many gods, and they were willing to add Him to their collection, but they soon realized that they could not control the God of the Ark so they sent it away. 

In the study notes of this Bible it poses a question:  

The Philistines were pagans. Dagon was their chief god who was their god of rain and harvest, but they worshipped many gods, all from which they sought favor. They thought they could just add the one true GOD to their collection. HE wasn't having it. Thinking of God this way made it easy for them to ignore the fact that God demands that people worship Him alone. Many worship God this way. They see God as just one ingredient in a successful life. But God is far more than an ingredient - He is the SOURCE of life itself. Are you seeking God’s favor as only an ingredient of the good life? 

I had to pause here and ask God if I am guilty in any way of this kind of limited faith. I’m sure that I am sometimes, but I don't want to be. We are to love God with our whole heart, mind, and soul (Mark 12:30 is just one reference to that quote from Jesus). This is the greatest command. It was given to the Israelites in the desert, it was given to the apostles by Jesus, it is expected of us today. Yet there is a tangible world we can see, touch and feel that is screaming for our attention, tugging at us with responsibilities and expectations, and taunting us with what we fear and what we lack. Our bodies respond physically, emotionally, mentally to all this external stimuli and when we look to God our creator we want an overwhelming “response” to occur. We want to “see, touch, hear, feel, taste”……SOMETHING….ANYTHING to prove to us that He is real. Those experiences are available to us, but are not the every day for everyone. 

Then I remember the Israelites…. the ones that lived after the generation who witnessed big miracles in person. They were living according to laws….. so many laws to be kept straight and in proper order. God was no longer having audible meetings with the priests. They were all simply acting out of obedience and going through the motions. I wonder if they ever longed for a manifestation of God’s presence as individuals. There was a long period of God’s silence. I have been opinionated about their many failings, but I wonder how difficult it must have been to “go through the motions” based on victories and experiences of the past generations not ever witnessing a cloud, a pillar of fire, God’s audible voice on a mountain of fire or in a burning bush, manna to eat every morning, etc. etc. 

So I ask myself for today… 

When it appears that God is silent, does unbelief creep in?  

Do I “go through the motions” waiting for the next “experience” to drop some faith in my cup?  

Do I look to God merely for favors? 

Do I try at times to add God to my life instead of making Him the source of it all? 

O Lord God, I want to love You with ALL that I am and ALL that I have. I notice when I fall short. You reveal to me areas where my faith could be stronger. Lord I want to believe fully and completely holding nothing back of myself….help me when I doubt, help me when I hold back, help me when I fear. Lord help me to love You with my whole heart, mind and soul! I don’t want a mechanical faith of “going through the motions” waiting for the next big tangible “movement.” I know that if I ask, You are faithful to give and Your Holy Spirit is roaming the earth to empower us to do what You have given us the grace for. Loving You completely is one of those things. Thank You, Father for answering this prayer.

Autism - AWESOME 

 

I had a very special privilege given to me by God this morning. I know it is one that God took great care in preparing my heart for in advance. During praise & worship I decided to go up front to the floor in front of the altar. (We do that in my church, well…. some of us brave ones do… I haven't always been that brave) I was deeply moved in worship and was praying out for our members, declaring God’s victory in every circumstance represented there, and thanking Him for what he’s walked me through in my own life. At the end of worship our Pastor asked us to pair up with people around us and pray for each other. He encouraged us in the truth that we are ALL ministers, one to another.  

I assumed who I would pray for, but I was very wrong. I turned to look into the face of Mason, and young man who said, “Jesus is King!” as our eyes met. I said, “Yes He is!” An adult male I know was “with” him and guided him into my hands for prayer. I asked his name and then his prayer request. He said with a slight awkwardness, “I’ve had autism since I was six.” My eyes lit up and I exclaimed, “That’s AWESOME Mason! That’s makes you very special. Do you know God created you to be exactly who He wants you to be? He made you PERFECT!” I went on to declare power, wholeness, clarity of mind and voice, for things to line up in his life and in his mind, will and emotions for God to use him in his destiny. I told him that he would be a mighty witness for God and how much God loved him right now just as he is.  

The words for this boy just flowed from me like a river and it was like we were the only ones in the room. During the declarations I felt his hands squeeze mine a little tighter with each decree. Something happened there…. I may never be privileged to see it, but I know I was there for such a time as that. You see…. I just read a book entitled Josiah’s Fire. In this book a boy with autism, who is completely nonverbal, begins to open up with an IPAD at age 6. Josiah is privy to a relationship with Jesus that most of us will never know until we get to Heaven. Josiah’s physical limitations are merely a veil for ALL that is going on inside of him and He is powerful for the Kingdom. Josiah is educated and has wisdom beyond his years. All this, he has received directly from his visits with Jesus! Mason IS verbal. He is on fire for God. Imagine how God will be able to use his life as well! 

Never discredit what you can’t see, or what you can’t make sense of. Never dismiss the ones who don’t walk to the beat of your drum. Our God is very creative and sometimes He likes to confound us with the unlikely. Be ready to see, open to listen, eager to hear and understand! 

May God bless you with the unexpected today!

Links to Josiah's Fire Book and Facebook page:

http://josiahsfire.com

https://www.facebook.com/JosiahsFire/

Yesterday's Defeat Can Become Today's Victory 

Are you feeling disappointed and battle weary?

After 40 years of wandering in the desert, the Israelites FINALLY entered the promised land. They experienced fantastic victory as they followed instructions from God. They did as they were told and the walls surrounding this great city fell. However, due to the disobedience, and in this case greed of one man, their next battle would be terribly lost. You see, they were instructed to destroy everything in this pagan land. God didn't want the belongings of the wicked among his people. Yet one man kept a robe, silver, and gold for himself. So when they went to battle in Ai, it was not with the blessing of God, and they LOST. Perplexed at this devastating blow they bowed on their faces in prayer around the Ark until evening. The Lord commanded them to "GET UP and deal with their sin." After the sin was exposed and dealt with, they were led back to Ai and conquered them. And this time they were allowed to keep whatever they wanted.

If you seem to be facing defeat after defeat in your own life, I wonder if just maybe there might be disobedience. Maybe you and everybody else knows you don't live according to Word of God and your sins are blatant and totally "out there." Or maybe you do live according to the Word, yet you are not doing something that God has specifically told you to do. Or you are doing something God specifically told you to stop doing. Sin can be a subtle stumbling block, but no matter how blatant or subtle, you know you are tripping over it time and time again.

The Bible teaches us here that once sin is dealt with, forgiveness and victory lie ahead. We do not have to stay in a place of guilt or discouragement when we look to God for direction. No matter how badly we've messed up or how difficult life has become because of our sin, we must renew our efforts to carry out God's will. We don't need to roll around on the ground feeling worthless. We need to "GET UP and deal with our sin." How?

Confess the sin to God (out loud with your own voice) 

Ask for forgiveness from God

Repent of it (which means to turn away from it, not returning to it)

Make restitution if need be (who did you hurt in the process and how can you make it right?)

Ask forgiveness of others you may have hurt (understanding that they may not be ready to forgive you, but God will if you are genuine)

When we chose to walk in the will of God for our lives, our trials can become our testimony of God's greatness. Ask God for direction. He will be faithful to give it to you. If your sin is habitual, find a support group. If you need to learn more about the Word and how it applies to you, join a bible study group. Yes, come to church on Sunday, but don't think that is going to be enough. You need to get into the Word for yourself. You need to understand the Word for yourself so that when you hear it again in a group setting you can hear it with understanding.

Yesterday's defeat can become today's victory. Now GET UP and go be victorious!!

Isaiah 41:10-13 ESV  

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Are you a "SLUGGER?" 

 

We are in the middle of a sermon series on Love at my church. I was asked to do the "Call to Worship" and this is what God laid on my heart for today. I pray you are encouraged to reach higher, deeper, and with more passion desiring a more intimate and authentic relationship with the One who loves you the most. 

The bible tells us that God is Love and everything that comes from Him is an act of His love. 

 

The first and greatest commandment to us: 

You must love the Lord your God with  

All your heart, All your soul, and All your strength. 

 

That’s a whole lot of loving! That’s like… ALL you have. 

And born basically selfish, we have a choice. 

We will have to choose to love God on purpose…  

in every circumstance and feeling - warm fuzzies and in want 

That is going to take a huge amount of effort on our part.  

 

In Galatians, the first Fruit of the ‘Spirit of God’ is Love,  

So if God’s in here (in our heart), we can love. 

 

(John 15:13) There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life  

for one’s friends. 

(Psalm 13:5) I trust in your unfailing love.  

I will rejoice because You have rescued me. 

 

Isn’t that what Jesus did for us? 

He rescued us by laying down His life. 

Jesus…. God in the flesh…. said this of us 

 

If we make Him known to men,  

He will make us known to the angels of God. (Luke 12:8) 

If we acknowledge Him publicly here on earth,  

He will acknowledge us before His Father in heaven. (Matt 10:32-33)  

 

One of the ways we can publicly declare our love for God is  

Praise & Worship 

It’s very important how we begin our services every week 

 

Did you know that your praise can clear the spiritual atmosphere in this room? 

And the bible says that God inhabits the praises of His people. 

When God is here there is a LOVE exchange 

 

But it is a choice - and sometimes a battle, but your praise declares that  

YOU WILL NOT BE MOVED  

Your Worship becomes your love song and your battle cry. 

What we need to do is choose to be a “SLUGGER” 

 

Show UP (on time)  

Look UP (focus on God)  

UPLift (His Holy Name) 

Give UP (our pride & fear) 

Grow Up (in our faith) 

Elevate (God above our problems)  

End Up (on fire with love for God) (yes, I know there are 2 for 'E')

Race Up (to the altar of God) 

 

For us, love is an action word. 

How much do you want to love God? 

Let’s shout out the name of God together in this place! 

This is how love wins!

Freedom with Christ Jesus 

 

 

As we celebrate freedom in America,

I’d like to take you on a little journey of freedom in scripture and the freedom we celebrate in Christ. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

(Jn 3:16) 

The redemptive work of Jesus on the cross set us free from the curse of the law

(Gal. 3:13) 

The law was given to help us, but our weak flesh could not stick to it.

Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free,  

and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

(Gal 5:1 NLT) 

Stop nit picking each other and yourselves.

Live as people who are free,  

not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil,  

but living as servants of God.

(1Peter 2:16) 

God doesn’t pick favorites: 

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free (status),  

and there is neither male nor female,

for you are ALL ONE in Christ Jesus

(Gal. 3:28) 

The Lord is the Spirit,  

and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  

(2 For 3:17 NIV) 

The Lord is also “Truth”

You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free. 

(John 8:32 NIV) 

So if the SON of GOD sets you free, you will be free indeed. 

(John 8:36 ESV) 

Freely you have received; freely give.

(Matt 10:8b) 

Acceptance, encouragement, healing, forgiveness -  

What do you withhold? What makes you do that? 

There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  

Because you belong to Him, the power of the LIFE-giving Spirit  

has FREED you from the power of sin that leads to death.  

(Romans 8:1-2 NLT)  

 You have LIFE in you, now you are FREE to give it away!  

This scripture below is for you and me as we are compelled to go out and tell the good news and offer a hand to the hurting. 

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,  

because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor;  

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,  

to proclaim liberty to the captives,  

and the opening of the prison to those who are bound  

(Isaiah 61:1 ESV)

Prayer for President & Country 

Prayer for President Trump, Country & People 6-5-2017 

Father God,  

Firstly, may Donald Trump have a full saving knowledge of You and Your Son Jesus and may he submit his will to Your will completely. 

May he seek You with his whole heart and worship You in Spirit and in Truth all the days of his life. May he be a ruler like King David, in that he would be a man after Your heart, and use his power and authority for the good works of Your Kingdom.  

Open his spiritual ears to hear You, God, more clearly. May his focus be on Your plans for his presidency and influence in the U.S. and the world. Bring him dreams and visions from Your Kingdom and direct his ways.  

Give him discernment and allow him to “see” like never before. Increase his wisdom beyond his own ability so that he will know beyond any doubt You are directing him. Give him boldness to move in ways he has never moved before.  

Keep his heart soft toward Jesus and his mind continually washed in Your word. May his every thought be held captive by a loving Savior. 

Help him to walk uprightly with courage knowing that you are with him. Keep his foot from any snare and his feet from stumbling.  

Go ahead of him wherever he goes and prepare the way with favor for Your anointed work in this world. Clear a path for him in advance so his footing is steady and his path is sure. 

Walk beside him on each side and gird him up. Give him strength and courage for his destiny. May he walk and not grow weary, may he run and not faint by Your Spirit and power working in and through him. 

Walk behind him and be his rear guard blocking any backlash from decisions he must make. Lest the enemy attempt to sneak up behind him, Your presence, God, will be there for his protection. 

Be beneath him to protect him from what’s below, and hover above him like a shield to block an assault from above. 

Shut up the wagging tongues controlled by the enemy. Silence the slander and useless chatter. Cut off the avenues and airwaves from these evil tongues used to spread their venom. 

Expose the plans of the enemy, corruption, twisted truth, lies, deception, people and things hidden in darkness. Subject these situations, people, and strategies to Your light of truth. 

Father, I also ask that you would do all these things for our Vice President, Mike Pence.  

Protect & strengthen their wives, marriages, children, and extended family, and their businesses.  

Help your saints to hold their tongues in complaints and unbelief. Help them to examine their own hearts before, out of their heart, their mouth speaks. Remind your saints to take their concerns to God in prayer while using their words to strengthen and build up - not tear down. 

Raise up for our country a government and place people in every position who value Your word, Your goodness, Your love, and Your ways. Raise up business owners who will operate with integrity. Pour out Your creativity and influence in the family structure, the healthcare system, food production, marketplace, education, entertainment and media. 

Begin to activate the blessings long withheld from the United States. Break every chain that binds Your people and this land. Release abundant anointing onto your saints. Let Your healing flow across this land to restore sick and wounded bodies and souls, and yes even the land itself. Let what has been twisted by man be straightened out by You, Lord. Let the FIRE of revival consume this land and let every person rise up to praise You in Spirit and Truth. Let them rejoice and be glad in Your presence and sing Your praise to the world!  

Ready Your saints for the harvest yet to come O Lord. May our callings and gifts come forth and operate to their fullness for Your Kingdom purposes. Make us bold, strong, battle ready, but tender hearted. Give us the ability to accept change, to bend and flow without breaking, and to be a catalyst for others in the trenches. Help us to present ourselves wide open for Your purification and cleansing so that we may live in holiness on this earth. Encourage us with Your love and strengthen us with Your power. Guide us by Your Holy Spirit as we proclaim the Name of Jesus as Lord. Help us to joyfully bring all honor and glory to You. 

Thank You Father, for hearing this prayer. Thank You that You are near, You are listening, You are living and active, and You are moving on our behalf according to Your plan. 

Yours is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, forever and ever. It is in the mighty name of JESUS we pray. AMEN! 

Prayer written by Sandy Harless in response to a word given by Lana Vawser

Psalm 72 New Life Version (NLV) - A Prayer for the King 

72 O God, make the king right in what he decides. Make the king’s son right with You. 2 May he be right when he decides who is right and who is wrong and may he be fair to the poor. 3 Let mountains and hills bring peace to the people through what is right and good. 4 May he stand by those who are poor, save the children of those in need, and destroy the bad power over them. 

5 May all the children-to-come fear You as long as the sun and the moon last. 6 May He come down like rain upon the cut grass, like rain that waters the earth. 7 In His days may all go well with those who are right and good. And may there be much peace until the moon is no more. 

8 May he also rule from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. 9 Those who live in the desert will put their faces to the ground before Him. And those who hate Him will kiss the dust. 10 Let the kings of Tarshish and of the islands bring gifts. Let the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts. 11 Yes, let all kings fall down at His feet, and all nations serve Him. 

12 For He will take out of trouble the one in need when he cries for help, and the poor man who has no one to help. 13 He will have loving-pity on the weak and those in need. He will save the lives of those in need. 14 He will take them from the bad power that is held over them and from being hurt. Their blood will be of much worth in His eyes. 15 He will live, and the gold of Sheba will be given to Him. Prayer will be given for Him all the time. Let them honor Him all day long. 

16 May there be much grain in the land on top of the mountains. May its fruit grow like the trees of Lebanon. And may those of the city grow like the grass of the earth. 17 May His name last forever. May His name become bigger as long as the sun shines. And let men respect themselves through Him. Let all nations honor Him. 

18 Honor and thanks be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, Who alone does great things. 19 And honor be to His great name forever. May the whole earth be filled with His shining-greatness. Let it be so.

Snorkeling for the Big Fish! 

On a vacation in Peurto Rico I put on a mask and flippers and made it past the coral to the water (which dropped off drastically and freaked me out). I returned to the shallows just before the reef in about a foot of water, laid down and put my face in the water. I began to notice the tiniest plants and sea creatures and fish around me. I just stayed there marveling at how I would have never noticed them had I stayed in the deep looking for bigger fish. They were just as fantastic on a tiny scale! How much do we miss looking for the BIG things in life? We look right past what's in front of us to something we think we want. I am blessed! In the mundane and the exuberant... I am blessed!

​​​​​​​Holy Encounter at the Fish Market  

March 23, 2017 

My friend Licia and I had arrived in Hampton, checked into our hotel, and started to feel the grumblings of our hungry tummies. A quick look around the room offered little information about local restaurants. We had decided on seafood, and ventured down the front desk. I found myself discussing restaurants with a person whom I quickly discovered didn’t even like seafood….. ok never mind. What to do, but refer to my IPhone. We discovered a fish market/restaurant was only 2 miles from our hotel! As we neared the building what came into view was truly a ‘hole in the wall’ kind of place. Licia asked, “Are you sure you want to eat here?” To which I replied, “Well, they have made an entire TV series called ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ and most of the time the food looks really good. Let’s give it a shot. How bad can a local seafood market be?” 

As we entered we noticed we were in the racial minority, which didn’t bother me but only confirmed that the food would be great! (the mention of race has an importance later in this testimony) An older lady, all dressed up, standing by the drink counter gave me a quick “are you lost?” kind of look. She was on her cell phone talking about a funeral. I prayed for her silently. We placed our order and chatted with a couple before sitting behind them in a booth. My seat faced the door. The man encouraged me to take a look at the fish market. To my amazement, they were stocked with all kinds of fresh fish and other seafood items. Our crab legs came out to the table just as an older white lady came in. She asked if they had an ‘all-you-can-eat’ crab leg special to which I replied, “I wish!” She then said, “Yes, I can eat crab legs all day long!” 

The rest of our food came out, and as I took a bite of my turnip greens they dripped down my chin and the lady behind us had just returned from the trash and she smiled and said, “Good?” I replied “Mmmm Hmm!” I even broke my diet to eat delicious hush puppies. We were disappointed that the scallops were fried instead of steamed, but not so much that we didn’t eat them too! It was all very good. I noticed the other lady’s meal being delivered behind Licia and she was having fried fish. I thought to myself, “I wonder why she didn’t order crab legs?” I took another bite of my hush puppy and I heard in my head, “You buy her some crab legs.” I shook it off at first. But then again, “Buy her some crab legs.” I thought “Is that You God? You know she’s the only other white person in here. It’s going to look like a racial preference thing. I don’t want to offend anyone.” Then God spoke again, “Buy her some crab legs!”  

I finished my last bite, left my seat without explanation to Licia and went to the window to order her crab legs. I ordered her one cluster because I knew she would be full from her fried fish. I delivered the receipt to her and gave her one of my CDs. I told her that God wanted to bless her, and so did I. She said thank you and looked at the back of the CD. She then looked back and forth at the CD and me and said, “THIS IS YOU! Are you performing locally this weekend?” I told her no, that we were in town to attend the Joyce Meyer conference and asked her if she was going. She told me that she was at Riverside Hospital and had been for over two weeks with her husband. He has Parkinson’s and was really struggling with his health. She told me this was the first real meal she had eaten since he was admitted. She had been eating from the hospital vending machines. I said, “Oh, I am so sorry! You really need to take care of yourself you know.” Then I asked, “Can we pray with you for your husband?” Her eyes welled up with tears and she said, “Yes, please.” Lica and I prayed over her husband Vincent for healing and over Nancy for strength and comfort among other things. It was a very moving experience for her and a humbling one for me. 

We cleaned off our table and were getting ready to leave when the man who took my order ran out from the kitchen with a zip lock baggie that contained two clusters of frozen crab legs. He blurted out, “I am so sorry! I completely forgot to steam your order of crab legs! I want to offer you a double order to take home, or I can steam them for you. It will only take five minutes.” I said, “Well actually, this order is for this lady right here. Nancy, would you like two clusters instead of one?” Of course, she said yes. We said our goodbyes and I promised to keep her and her Vincent in my thoughts and prayers. I hoped I had not offended anyone in the restaurant, but more than that I hope they felt the presence of God in that little fish market. 

On the way back to the hotel it occurred to me that God had doubled the blessing!! (Isn’t it just like Jesus to increase the fish?) I stepped out of my comfort zone into a simple act of obedience and God super-sized it on a tangible level! I pray for Nancy and Vincent that the spiritual blessing is an OVERFLOW that continues on and on! 

Be encouraged to step out of your comfort zone, even when it feels awkward. You never know how much someone may need what you have to offer them. 

If you’re in Hampton VA near the Hampton Coliseum and you like fresh seafood, visit: 

  

Hampton Seafood Market & Restaurant 
509 Bassette St 
Hampton, VA 23669 
(757) 722-8268 

https://www.grahamandrollins.com

He Didn't Show Up 

I had a vivid dream last night. I was on the worship team singing in the ensemble. The 3 of us were asked to back way up against the wall behind a stack of speakers while the band filled the stage. We could not hear much of what was going on except that it was really loud. Every once in a while in a playful gesture someone in the band would throw something in our direction. A rubber band, a balled up piece paper, etc. The congregation was standing and clapping, but not really engaged in worship. They were greeting each other as many strolled in late. When the music ended, everyone sat down. This is the time when a pastor would normally come up and grab a microphone and pray, but no one came up. Some of the associate pastors were in the congregation, but no one took the lead. The head pastor, who was supposed to deliver the sermon, never showed up. Everyone sat in their pew and began to converse with each other. After a long time, some got up to leave. Soon everyone followed. They left in disbelief that the pastor just wouldn’t show up. 

I don’t know the full interpretation of this dream, but I find it odd that NO ONE knew what to do without the leader. When we come to church we are there to honor God, to praise Him, to give of ourselves to Him. This didn’t appear to happen. Some come to get their weekly teaching because they aren’t engaged in any other group or bible study. This didn’t happen. No one else stepped up to the plate to fill the role of the leader. Some come to appease their weekly duty. Check.  

Has worship become more entertainment than a true exchange with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Let’s not put the blame on the band. In today’s culture a worship team has to nearly stand on their heads and put on a light show to get the general population's attention. This is supposed to be the time in the service when we are vertical with God. We are praising Him, exalting Him, telling Him of His greatness. The bible tells us that the Father inhabits our praise. Another version says He is enthroned on our praise! If we’ve come to be entertained then we are not postured to “give” we are postured to “receive.” 

Has showing up late become the norm because, after all, the message hasn’t started yet. The part of the service I came to “receive” hasn’t started so I haven’t missed anything. Has coming to church been the only time during the week you are exposing yourself to the teachings of God? And, are you seriously expecting your pastor to squeeze all of what God has for you to learn into 52 hours or less a year? What if your pastor didn’t show up? What then? Where would you be in your growth process? Who are the leaders of the next generation? In this case…. would they feel that even had the freedom to step in? 

In this dream, this was my church, however, I do not feel that my church would react this way. But it does give us some questions to ponder for ourselves and the leadership of churches across the world.

Choose Wisely my Friends.... 

"Jesus tells us the way to identify genuine faith is not by people's words but by the fruit they produce." (thanks for the quote John Bevere) So, what is the fruit of your life this Christmas season? Is it love, joy, peace, kindness, forgiveness, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control? Or is it the opposite? Do you hold a grudge? Do you love with strings attached? Is there a war waged inside you that produces impatience and a lack of kindness and self-control? Jesus came to bring life, and in that, peace. If we truly press into God, then our faith will produce the best in our character. We will become people who draw others rather than push them away. It is, however, a personal choice. We are all a work in progress. Choose wisely my friends....

Doubt Will Be Wiped Away 

Romans 11 ... God is awesome! I'm so happy to know that He is coming back for His chosen race and that the veil of doubt and unbelief will be lifted (for those who still reject Him)! I'm so thankful to have been adopted into God's family. The great thing is that we ALL can be adopted in, doesn't matter who we are or what we've done. We all have doubts, hang-ups, and questions. I believe some of the answers we are just NOT capable of understanding right now. Consider what the end of Ch 11 (The Message version) in Romans has to say: 
33-36 Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out. 
Is there anyone around who can explain God? 
Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do? 
Anyone who has done him such a huge favor 
    that God has to ask his advice? 
Everything comes from him; 
Everything happens through him; 
Everything ends up in him. 
Always glory! Always praise! 
    Yes. Yes. Yes.

God is FOR You! 

God is FOR you, not against you. He knows your needs and the desires of your heart. He does not need you to complete Himself, but you need Him to complete you. You were born ready to be illuminated by His light in your life. Just like a stained glass window, without Him your life can look and feel pretty nondescript. But WITH Him, the picture of who you are, and the brilliance of who He created you to be come to life! Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. God's son chose to leave His throne and Kingdom in Heaven to become earthly flesh, live among the people and show us the way to the Father. He laid down his life and died to pay the penalty we could not pay. You have been given every opportunity and a pathway to eternal life. I pray you have chosen God. He chose you first.

DIY Life 

DIY LIFE? Romans 8:5-8 (The Message) "Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life." (if ALL you have to compare yourself to is yourself and possibly your friends, you probably won't amount to much and your moral compass is vastly limited and most likely skewed) Near the end of the paraphrase: "Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God and ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored." (God will not be ignored. If life seems to be throwing you a few curve balls, maybe its really God tossing a few rocks against your bedroom window trying to get your attention.)

I Don't Want to be a Superstar! 

I’ve been struggling with something lately. I’m not really sure how to put it into words or put my finger on the the real issue. I’m a musician. I sing. I write songs from my heart and give them a melody. I’ve now recorded two albums. Here’s a shocker….. I’ve lost interest in doing concerts. More to the point, I’ve lost interest in performing. I don’t want to entertain people. A long time ago that was fun, but somewhere along my walk with God that has changed on the inside.  

I realize that music is a business and that concerts are necessary to sell music. Christian music is no different in that aspect. I am not against a person being paid for their gifting, trade or ministry service. I’m not against Christian concerts. I’ve been to several. I recently attended a fairly large Christian concert event involving several big name groups. There were awesome worshipful moments, but as I walked back to my car having left the concert early I had this feeling like something was missing. Oh the bands were amazing, the worship leaders were certainly engaged in worship, the special effects were on point, there was the opportunity to sign up to fund a worthwhile ministry, and there was a bit of teaching. I saw long lines of people waiting to see their favorite artist and get pics and autographs. And perhaps after I left amazing things took place, so I can’t completely be completely sure of my next question……..Did the event minister to people on deep levels? Did people bring a sacrifice of praise. Did anyone receive prayer. Did anybody leave “changed?” Was this part of a transformation process for any person there? I can’t answer that question, but I don’t think it would have been for the “me of the past.” 

You see, I have been transformed, healed and set free and most of this has happened when I was in an atmosphere of worship. No performance I did ever set me free from anything, nor do I believe it had a lasting impact on anyone else. I read my bible, I pray, I listen to sermons at my church and other teachings online and I believe all those things have an impact on me. However, being engaged in worship, opening my heart to God, inviting Jesus into the intimate places of my soul, and allowing the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do… those are the times where I am ALL IN. Worship is powerful! But the thought of scheduling a “concert” leaves me saying to myself, “Why would I want to do that?”  

I am a wife, mother of kids still in school, ministry leader, weekly bible study teacher/facilitator, serve on our church worship team and as our women’s worship leader. I have come to realize that my time is valuable and if I’m going to start spending more of it then I want it to “count for something.” I want to create a space for others to receive what I’ve been given. I want others to feel how I feel about my Lord and Savior and experience the intimacy that is available to them through worship and prayer. I want to witness the “lights go on” in people’s spirits and see them healed of deep wounds and experience a “freedom” like they’ve never known. I want to create a space where there is no agenda other than pressing into Jesus, seeking the face of God and being saturated by the Holy Spirit. I want to witness the free ministering to the bound and broken in an atmosphere of worship. I want to encourage and exhort with words of hope. I want to see people come and catch the fire of God and leave “changed” with a desire to see others changed. 

No, I don’t want to be a superstar. I want to see the dead RISE!

Healing Hands 

My neck and I have been on quite a journey for a very long time. In and out of extreme pain, but always pain of some level. I have been the recipient of many prayers, prayed for myself, studied scriptures about healing, recited healing decrees, my faith is strong  and I firmly believe in healing and in the power of prayer. I have tried chiropractic, physical therapy, massage therapy, essential oils, over-the-counter pain meds, prednisone, cortisone injections, etc… I’m not sure if my pain levels actually decreased, or if my tolerance for pain increased, but I never let it stop me from life…….Until it ‘stopped’ me. My physical therapist (who is also my friend) said, ok…. you’ve gone long enough, it’s time to go back and get a 2nd opinion. 

In previous blogs, “Half Way Free” & “Rest She Said” I explain how I ended up ‘stopped.’ 

One thing that came back to me during that prayer session described in “Rest She Said” was another lady said, “Healing hands. I feel God telling me that healing hands will touch you and you will be healed.” I had a chiropractic appointment plus an orthopedic visit scheduled for later that day. I was just SURE that somewhere between the two visits I would encounter the healing hands. Little did I know how many more hands would be involved, and how much more ‘rest’ I would encounter. Three weeks flat on the couch, three doctor visits, 1 MRI, follow up next day…. emergency surgery recommended. That day if possible!  

“I need a minute” I said “Maybe I need more like a day to wrap my head around this. I have forms laying on my printer to fill out for my daughter to leave for summer camp in 2 days and her suitcase to pack.” In the back of my head I’m thinking, “I’m in the middle of teaching a bible study group. I’m leading worship in 6 weeks for our women’s retreat. I’ve read many reviews online and singers often lose their ability to sing after this surgery and in some cases are hoarse for the rest of their life! The ‘what if’s’ digressed to worst case scenario. I also knew I couldn’t live on my couch in pain either…. then God’s still small voice, “trust me.”…………I recounted all the ways I had trusted God before now and how He has never let me down. Made me wait? Yes. But God is always right on time.…….”Okay.” I said, “Schedule me for tomorrow.” 

There is blessing in pain. It may not feel like much of a blessing, but if God allows the pain you can be sure there is a reason. Not to run off on a sermon (which would be so convenient right here) but sometimes pain can get our attention when nothing else will! You see, I had an MRI a year and half ago that showed a rupture. I saw a neuro-surgeon about the results. His office demeanor and flippant response to my condition left me knowing surgery was an option, but certainly not necessary. In fact, he said that if I was able to manage my pain with Advil that would be a viable route to take. I also knew from X-rays that I had arthritis, but this was not uncommon. I made up my mind that surgery would be a last resort and even made the statement that I would have to be unable to move before I considered it. With Advil and physical therapy I was able to maintain and stay mobile.  

Fast forward a year and a half. The new MRI revealed that my pain was coming from a bulging disc above the one that was previously ruptured in addition to arthritis. This was pinching nerves that radiated down my left arm causing spasms in my arm, upper back and numbness and tingling in my fingers (my guitar chording fingers!). However, the real problem was the old rupture on the right, which had now calcified and was pressing into and causing bruising on my spinal cord! If I were to be involved in a car accident in this condition, I could be left paralyzed from the neck down! …….but God. He allowed the pain of the lesser condition to bring attention to the bigger one I had conditioned myself to ignore. (Man there’s a sermon here too! But I have to stick to the story!) 

Hospital Stay 

I came in at 11am to get a room and pre-op blood work, etc. We got to sit and wait until after 3 before blood work was attempted…… my veins were in hiding. Three fishing sticks later by 2 nurses and an ER nurse was called up who got it on the first try. Thank you Lord! Then they came to get me for surgery, which was scheduled for 5pm. You go to a holding area where they ask you a million questions, trade your cotton gown for paper and everyone who will be on your surgical team comes by to introduce themselves. All that was completed….. and I wait. Turns out some blood work was missing, so they get more and I wait. Now during this time another patient comes in with a broken arm and broken knee from a fall. He was 83 and his breathing and cough was scary sounding. I also learned that my caretakers were nearing the end of their 12 hr shift, and it looked as if they were going into overtime. What do you do when you wait? You can worry. I did a little of that. I rehearsed every embarrassing thing that could happen during surgery. I wondered how exposed I would eventually be with this new paper veil of false modesty they gave me. I could keep worrying about stupid things, or I could pray. SO… I prayed. I prayed for this man behind the curtain beside me. I couldn’t imagine the pain he was in and how scared he was. I prayed for the tired staff. I prayed for my surgeon because I knew he had worked a full day, was pushed late, maybe not able to eat dinner. I prayed for myself, but mostly I told God over and over, “I trust You. I may not trust all else going on around me, but I trust YOU. You brought me to this, You will bring me through this and whatever is on the other side is in your sovereign plan.” And I sang under my breath Great is Thy Faithfulness (which I also sang in my head for 30 minutes in the MRI machine just days before). I couldn’t sing out if I wanted to at this point, I had been hoarse for 2 weeks. I don’t know if it was meds or laying down so long, but my voice was shot. Finally, in walks my surgeon. I asked him how he was feeling, if he had a good day and told him I’d been praying for him. He said, “Good, I’ve been praying for myself too!” I told him that we were both ready then. Then I heard the man beside me call out, “pray for me too!” I said, “Sir, I already have!” He said, “Thank you.” They wheeled me into the OR and asked if I could move myself to the table, which I remember doing, but it’s the last thing I remember……until recovery. Ugh. 

I got back to my room at 10:30pm to find my family and a praying friend waiting. Two angelic nurses got me situated and then we were able to have a time of prayer before everyone went home. My mom stayed the night with me and brought me popsicles and chicken broth several times. My night nurse was a cracker jack nurse who popped in every hour for vitals and pills. She was the most efficient, good natured person I think I’ve met in a long time!  

My surgeon’s assistant came in the next am to explain my surgery to me. My surgeon also came in not too much later to explain it to me again. After I heard what happened I had even more reason to praise God for his timing, provision, and yes even the pain. You see, the ruptured disc was not only pressing into and bruising my spinal column, it had fused itself TO my spinal cord dural sheath. The surgery took almost twice as long because of this. I also developed a spinal fluid leak, which he patched with “spray glue” (modern tech ya know!). He told my husband that if I had waited 6 months longer to have this surgery the outcome may not have been as good. Want to hear more of the blessings?!? My voice was clear! Clearer than before surgery! My pain level was that of a sore throat you get with a cold. No headaches at all from the spinal fluid leak! No soreness at the surgical site. No more pain in my arm or back. I was up, walking around, taking it easy, and feeling good.  

I had brought one of my CDs to give to my surgeon, but he got away too fast, so I gave it to my awesome night nurse before she left. Do you know she CALLED me at the hospital to thank me before I left! She had already listened to some of it and she said she felt like it was God that brought her to me for the night. She is a travel nurse and goes all around to other hospitals.  

Later a man came to get me for my exit X-ray. He was a friendly, big strong man. The X-ray was quick, but the wait to go back to my room was not. I knew my lunch was being delivered and I was getting hungry. Not to mention the whole radiology dept appeared to be walking past me into a room where the smell of food was distinctly coming from. I actually considered getting up and walking back to my room just when the same man came in to roll me up.  

On the way to the elevator I saw a lady from my bible study group. She hadn’t been able to attend our summer session so she didn’t know I had surgery. We stopped and talked a minute. In the elevator I told the man that she was in my bible study. He said, “well ain’t that somethin! You teach bible study?” I said “Yes, I also lead worship which was a big worry of mine having neck surgery.” He said, “Go ahead! What church do you go to?” I told him and told him about my CD coming out soon. Then he said, “You just never know who you are going to meet! I can’t believe this!” I assured him that I’m not anyone special, just a servant of God. Not a superstar. We rolled into my room. Then he go serious and asked, “Do you know anything about the moon and the stars and all that stuff?” I said, “You mean the blood moons?” He said, “Yeah, that’s it.” I asked him if he was afraid of the End Times and he told me he was. I said, “You don’t need to be afraid. No one knows the time or the day of Jesus’ return, not even Jesus himself. Only God knows when that day will be and no man on this earth will be able to tell you when. But if you belong to God you have no reason to fear. We are called to be a light, to share the truth and the gospel until his return, not to hide in fear. God will take care of you.” Then a lady shoved some discharge paperwork into my lap and started talking a mile a minute, nothing of which I heard. I asked my mom to give him my card. She said he had tears in his eyes as he walked back toward her and said I had given him peace today. Praise God! I hope that peace stays with him and he has a new kick in his step for sharing that gospel of peace!! 

Dressed and ready to leave, my pastor and his wife walk in to visit! She had a similar surgery a year and a half before and has recovered beautifully! The volunteer shows up with the chair, and we all take a moment to pray before leaving. I so appreciated the prayer, but I was also glad the young volunteer was there to be a part of it. She even said God bless you as I got in my car to leave. 

I’ve been praying and praising every day… thanking God for healing hands…. His hands coupled with so many wonderful medical staff and surgeons.  

I’m a week and 2 days out from surgery. I quit all the narcotics Tuesday. I don’t think I needed them that long, but was afraid maybe it was them keeping the pain away.  

Do I still believe in divine healing? YES!!!! But I also believe in divine appointments. I’ve mentioned a few here to encourage you, but there were so many other deeply personal divine moments that could not have been experienced if God didn’t allow this journey. It’s not always in the easy miracles that our faith is strengthened in God and in each other. 

TRUST GOD 

Thank you to My Healing Hands: 

GOD 

ORTHO VA Hanover 

Abilio A. Reis, MD (surgeon Ortho VA) 

Matthew Carleton, PA-C (under Dr. Reis) 

Cindy Smith, PT 

Tripp Stover, P.C. 

Memorial Regional Medical Center 

staff and nursing 

and the MANY prayer warriors!

Here I am rockin' my neck brace and bone growth stimulator collar!
Here's me rockin' my neck brace & bone growth stimulator

Please excuse me while I stare….. 

It has occurred to me in adulthood that I probably always had a tendency to “stare.” I’m an artist at heart, I see beauty and simply want to linger and take it all in. It may be a face with character lines or total lack of lines anywhere. It may be clothing style or color. It could be very well done cosmetics or hair color that allows the light to play perfectly in your crown. It could be the color of your skin,the pigment blends in your eyes or the intimate details that make you unique.  

I can remember when I was a teen being asked by someone uncomfortable with my gaze, “What are YOU looking at?” which caused me to quickly look away. Then came squinting because I needed glasses, which appeared to be “glaring,” which also evoked a negative response. Eventually…. I learned to look away…. 

Something I have discovered with Facebook, and maybe some of you artists have discovered this as well. I can stare again! I can look at every beautiful detail of my friends and not make them feel uncomfortable.  

Why am I sharing this? Because I want you to know that if you are being stared at, it is most likely because someone is noticing your beauty, not your defects. You may feel uncomfortable, but it’s a compliment really.

Rest she said.... 

I have a wonderful group of friends, and about 20 of them currently meet with me on Tuesday mornings for a Bible Study. We happen to be studying Lisa Bevere’s “Girls with Swords” (yes I will shamelessly give her a plug for a fantastic message in this study of the word and how to wield it in this life!). At the onset of my current condition they prayed for me and one of them repeated the word “rest.” If you know me, you know I don’t rest well. I have a husband, two children at home on swim team, a house to run and ministry in its various capacities, my mom just flipped and house for herself to move into and I was there for her with that, and somehow I try to squeeze in time with friends (yes, friends, I know you feel neglected and I’m sorry…..). Resting happens from 11pm to 7am. 

I got a cortisone shot in my shoulder, which seemed to be helping, so I kept plugging along with all my “responsibilities” including being at a swim meet until midnight thanks to a storm delay. But by Saturday night I was back in excruciating pain again (see blog entitled Half Way Free) only this time it would keep me flat and in traction for days…. To get up meant agonizing charlie horse pain in my upper back and arm muscles. A nauseating trip to the ortho doc (because the pain was that intense to be upright that long) revealed shoulder is fine… it’s my already challenged neck rising up again screaming for attention. Sooooo, next week I see a neck specialist again. Until then, prednisone, oxycontin and traction machine. My upright position has to be with head bent over as far as it can go looking at the floor. I have brief times of looking straight ahead, but only about 60 seconds before the spams start again. 

So, is the blog just a way to complain to the masses? No. I refuse to let satan have a victory here. He certainly attempted to at one point when I was sitting indian style with my head over on the floor trying to relieve the agony. I distinctly heard him tell me, “Look at yourself curled up into a ball on the floor. What good are you there? Just pitiful.” For a brief second I felt self pity. I thought, yeah I know…. I should be up and free, hands raised worshipping my King Jesus. Yes… this is rather pitiful…. what if…….

Then the Fire of God rose up in me and I told that scoundrel that I was a daughter of the Most High King and I am NOT pitiful. I will let this "condition" be my "bowed position" for now in honor and worship of my God. He is FOR me, not against me and He is working on my behalf. My healing is coming! I may be forced to rest for a while, and only God will determine how long that will be. When I am upright with my head bent over, I am bowing to Jesus, not feeling pathetic. When I am reclined in traction, I am listening to people filled with the Holy Spirit online to encourage, educate, and inspire my soul and spirit. I was told I needed rest that day in prayer, so rest I shall in the presence of God. He will saturate me with His Spirit and tend to my deepest needs. Some of which I have found not to be physical at all, but things I needed to hear and allow to really sink deep to change me on the inside. I have also been praying for others who are struggling with affliction. Personal pain can strengthen your prayers for others if you let it. 

As a worship leader and songwriter, I am hoping to get through all this without surgery on my ruptured disc. I’ve read a lot of patient stories of how their voice was damaged. But as a daughter of the King I have to trust that if He brings me to it, He will see me through it.  

I you are struggling in any capacity, you will need to choose who you let have the victory. You can feel pitiful or you can reach for God and let Him have the glory. I choose God.

As an aside: I would personally like my next "rest" to be somewhere tropical with mild weather and beautiful blue waters.

Half way Free 

It was gradual at first. A little bit of discomfort in my left shoulder, then wham! Mobility was halted and the pain was excruciating! By Sunday morning I just wanted to lay in bed and nurse my screaming back, arm, neck and shoulder. The minutes ticked away as I reasoned why it would be a good day to stay home and skip church. The the gentle nudge from God, “No, just go.” So off I go with three kids in tow.  

Found my seat, stood to worship and asked God what the message was in my distress. I’d been praying all weekend for relief and I wasn’t getting any. The message came almost instantly: 

“You are freely worshipping me with your right side. Your right side is free, but your left side is being weighed down by pain. Many of my people come into this building only partially free. For some, that’s good enough. As long as they are experiencing some freedom they are content enough not to seek wholeness. For others, their partial freedom is being overshadowed by the stuff that is weighing them down. It could be physical pain like yours, or emotional pain, fear or worry. Like your pain crept up on you, theirs is growing in an attempt to keep them from coming to me at all. There are others here who have not yet come to me. They are deceived. They feel like they have enough freedom in their lives and that they really don’t need me yet. Sure, they have some “stuff” going on in their lives, and that may be the very reason they won’t come to me. They feel disqualified. They need to know that I will receive them just as they are, “stuff” and all. If they don’t come to me, their stuff will overtake them and then where will they go for hope and healing? My people need to give me “everything” holding nothing back so they can experience total freedom. The ones who don’t know me yet should come and find that my grace is all sufficient and is big enough to love them just as they are.” 

I felt like I should share this, but I was flooded with thoughts that kept me in my seat. Tiana was with me, and stuck to me like glue. I hadn’t taken the “gifts mic” class yet and didn’t know if I would be out of order. I was at the opposite side of the church and would have to walk across the front and may be a distraction to others. How was the “keeper of the gifts mic” going to even hear my description of this message over the music which had gained volume by this time. Ok, one more song and I’ll go. One more song came and then Pastor Brandon came up and started praying….communion…. too late. 

I shared this with my mom and she said, “What a shame that you did not feel like you had the freedom to share because I think a lot of people need to hear that.” I shared it on Tuesday morning at the ladies Bible study and all the reasons I did not share it Sunday. The message spoke to them, and they encouraged me to write it out and make it available. So here it is!

Faith Found In the Hours of My Deepest Need 

I’ve been listening to the entire New Testament on CD (The Bible Experience) and somewhat dissecting my level of faith and obedience to the Word of God. At the same time I have been listening to short videos from Francis Chan on his book, Crazy Love. I guess you are wondering at this point if I am able to read, to which of course the answer is yes. Sometimes a busy schedule can leave empty blocks of time in getting ready, or driving to destinations and I like to fill that that with teachings that edify me. Edification has brought contemplation and conversation with others, and with God.  

At times I get to what I refer to as “comfort zones.” This is a familiar term used to describe many places we find ourselves happy to remain. The problem with a comfort zone is that we are failing to grow. We are not moving forward, but in fact we are “zoning out.” Things may have become so comfortable that we forget the steps it took to get to that place. In our ease we may even begin to make little mistakes we wouldn’t have made when we were striving to move forward. This can be true in hobbies, work, education, friendships, marriage, and our relationship and knowledge of God. In our activities this could, and most probably would, create a decline in excellence and performance. In our friendships and in our marriage this can lead to a disintegration of our relationships. When we sit in our comfort zone with God we may lose reverence, we may become legalistic in our remedial understanding of His word, and unfortunately begin to backslide. It doesn’t happen all at once…. but the gentle decline is a cunning lure of the enemy who approaches to steal our faith. 

I had a recent conversation with another person about what it truly means to be saved, to call yourself a Christian and a believer of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High God. When you lay it all out like that, it sound  more like a role we should take seriously. It’s easy to say, “Yes I’m a Christian.” or “Yes, I believe in God.” or “Yes, I go to church.” But when you think about what it means to truly emulate the nature of Jesus Christ, who, in Him there was no sin and by Him no sin was ever committed…. the self eval falls instantly short. When you read the account of the apostles who walked with Jesus and the letters written to the churches about the faith walk of a true believer… the self eval, even though you’ve tried very hard, looks pathetic and weak. In fact, selfishness, apathy, pride, laziness, and fear of fellow man pop out like bubbles flowing from a bubble wand. I know we walk in the dispensation of grace, but I also know that God wants to pop our bubbles! 

God always sends His Holy Spirit to encourage, nudge, guide, teach and pull you forward. Perhaps that is where I find myself… being pulled forward once again. In that conversation I told this person that in my recent 6 hours of concentrated New Testament listening, I find myself falling terribly short of the mark. Her response was, “Well, if you fall short, I don’t have a chance!” This is a person I look up to and a person who has immense wisdom from a life of challenging circumstances. I don’t compare my faith with hers. Honestly I’m just trying to “do my own thing” with God. I want others to “do their thing” with God, but I don’t want to feel that it’s a competition. But it did allow me to ponder the differences and the faith defining time periods of each of our lives. 

This morning after Francis Chan shared about “relationship” with God I began to think about my own. Why had my faith become unwavering? I had let go and walked on my own so many times in my youth. I have believed in God since I was a kid, but I’ve only “known” God in the last 19 years. He pursued me, then I pursued Him. It was in my hours of deepest needs (yes plural), when all hope seemed lost in circumstance after circumstance, that God held me and made Himself known to a woman who went looking for Him and fell at his feet. He allowed me to “know” him right before I would walk through hell. He made himself known through other people, through worship and His Word, and through His presence during times that I was breaking apart. He held me together as He became a real person, a real comforter, and a real healer. In this, not only did I get to know Him better, but I developed TRUST in Him. Do I know everything about the Lord Jesus? Do I know everything about God? No…. that would be impossible. But I know them enough to love and trust them. 

Tears filled my eyes as I began to thank God for allowing me to know Him during those times in my life. This was an anchor for my faith. It was because I knew Him during my struggles that I was able to get to the other side of them. This was a faith that had been walked out and a faith that I could hold on to.  

James 1:2-4 NIV 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

I don’t feel that I am complete in my maturity or that I lack nothing, but I feel that perseverance not only has a work to finish in me, but also leads me again and again back to Jesus, who is the author and finisher of my faith.