Friday, December 31, 2010

GOLD: 2010


Journeys. Each one of us is on one whether we participate consciously or not. As God does quite often with me, I was recently hit upside the heart with an idea: in the midst of my journey, as I am exposed to Golden Nuggets (Wisdom Words from God's heart through "You" to me) that I do not want to forget, I am to hold onto them. And so the creation of the GOLD tab was born on my blog. 

"...through our failures and successes God will be made more real." (My Groom) [June 28]

“Honoring your husband isn’t always doing it right, but it is being quick to repent when you know you're wrong and showing intent to change by making steps towards it.” (Ris Star) [June 30]

"When it's hard and you are doubtful, give more." (Francis Chan - Crazy Love) [July 4]

"Never be diplomatic and careful with the treasure God gives you ... this is poverty triumphant." (Oswald Chambers) [July 5]

"The miracle is not always the healing. Many times it's the transformed heart in the process." (Pastor Brady Boyd) [July 5]

"Scripture says we are really free to give everything we don't absolutely need! I  am past asking what we need to give and onto asking what we need to keep." (Coli Jones) [ July 6]

"The power I've given you through prayer is far greater than your ability to earn (by working outside of the home)." God spoke this to my heart when praying about seeking a job. [July 9]

"A miracle is a divine invasion into human affairs. Will you have the courage to wake up every day anticipating an invasion from God?" (Pastor Brady Boyd) [July 13]

"Playfulness is the quality that sees joy in ordinary circumstances and is eager to squeeze even more joy out of any given moment." (Bob Hamp) [July 15]

"Just let me love you." (As You Wish by R. J. Gunn) [July 16]

"It's not so much about whether or not a miracle of this proportion pulls you out of debt, it's about whether or not you believe a miracle like this can still happen. Will you believe for the bigger things and stop doubting what is easy for God to do?" (Holy Spirit to me referencing 2 Kings 4) [July 25]

"Elisha had a double anointing but he still had to walk in it." (Holy Spirit bringing understanding to the critical importance of our part after God's anointing.) [July 28]

"You are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream." (C.S. Lewis) [August 16]

"I shudder to admit this...but the honest and free part of me just won’t let me be silent." (Kerrie Oles) [August 16]

"The only thing worse than thinking He doesn't have the power to do it is thinking He does not have the desire to do it. HE WANTS TO!" (Preston Morrison) [August 17]

"Our brokenness is often inherent: God leaves out certain gifts and abilities on purpose - by design. In the very place God has called you, He will disable something important you think you need so that you see your need for Him." (Pastor Marcus Brecheen) [August 23]

"If He told me to do it … He’s not only going to hold my hand, He is going to rest His presence on it … it would have the ability to minister and bear fruit in others' lives" (Ris Star) [August 25]

"Make it your ambition and definitely endeavor to live quietly and peacefully, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you." (I Thessalonians 4:11) [August 25]

"Being rested makes room for BIG dreams." (Kyle Fox) [September 6]

"He has a plan and a purpose for you and your husband, and He just asks you to trust Him as you continue to lay down your life to demonstrate godly, unconditional love to your spouse. Allow God to write out your story. Don’t give up before you get to the good part. It is coming." (Rebecca Gates) [September 27]

"Expertise in human effort does not win a spiritual battle." (Pastor Bob Hamp) [September 28]

"Have you ever considered the possibility that God has placed you with aggravating people to do something in you? God is not going to take you out of the tension of relationships until He has fully formed and shaped what He wants to do inside your heart. God will use messy people to clean up our messes. There is no path to spiritual maturity that does not include our relationships with other people." (Pastor Brady Boyd) [October 1]

"Love that cannot be vanquished and sent running because of hate and persecution. Peace that cannot be dispersed by the chaos of darkness. Joy that cannot be diminished by light and temporary afflictions." (Pastor Bob Hamp) [October 4]

"Hope when it seems silly. Love when no one else does. Be radically inhabited." (Pastor Bob Hamp) [October 4]

"My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him." (Psalm 62-5) [October 12]

"The capacity for love that you don’t possess on your best day in the flesh is waiting to be poured into you in His presence.” (Holy Spirit to me) [October 12]

"You will enrapture me - diffusing my soul with joy - with and in Your presence." (Acts 2:28) [October 14]

"Love will touch their hearts but prayer will open their spirits." (Pastor Sameh Maurice) [October 17]

"I came to a place where ... my faith and heart no longer rested on a good outcome. I believed ... my faith had somehow changed. I knew that no matter what happened my God is who He says He is. Somehow my faith wasn’t dependent on my circumstances anymore." (Melissa Aulds) [October 20]

"If the enemy can get you to side step the Mighty Love of God just long enough to make you doubt your Father’s intent or love or ability, then he has you a hop, skip and a jump from deflating your own faith. And the more counsel you ingest by way of fear, the more you will find your ears dull to God’s words and your will limp to do as He asks." (Kate Andre) [October 21]

"Now don’t misunderstand me, God uses people (this we know), but He wants us to turn our hearts towards Him and seek His help before we just automatically look to others or try to do it on our own." (Celeste Barnard) [October 29]

"Grace is what I crave most when my guilt is exposed. The very thing I am hesitant to extend when confronted with the guilt of others - especially when their guilt has robbed me of something I consider valuable. When we are on the   receiving end, grace is refreshing. When it is required of us, it is often disturbing. But when correctly applied, it seems to solve just about everything." (Andy Stanley) [November 8]

"If you are facing an impossible situation today, do not lose heart. You are perfectly poised for a miracle. Look up to Jesus." (Pastor Christine Caine) [November 16]

"If you will change your mind then God will change your heart." (Pastor Robert Morris) [November 20]

"Tears are simply the heart’s language when words aren’t enough." (Pam Mueller) [November 22]

"If I offer what I have with faith, God will add His compassion and supernatural power to provide more than enough." (Pam Mueller) [November 22]

"Remember that it is always safe to obey my voice, Much-Afraid, even if it seems  to call you to paths which look impossible or even crazy." (The Shepherd to Much-Afraid from Hinds' Feet on High Places) [November 23]

"Obey Irrationally and Give Extravagantly ... Don't increase your standard of living, increase your standard of giving." (Craig Groeschel) [December 5]

"The journey is about trusting God for every moment; not with a lack of wisdom but with reckless abandon." Pastor Brady Boyd [Dec 5]

"Restoring a person is more important than the fact that you're 'right'." (Crista Ashworth) [December 5]

"It's not to take [from] us but to take us [to] another level of giving." (Holy Spirit's words to me during the weekend message at Gateway) [December 5]

"God's promises are so much bigger than our enemy's strategy to defeat them. Standing on the his promise and believing it will be fulfilled." Me [Dec 9]

"To identify with the death of Jesus Christ means that we must die to everything that was never a part of him." Oswald Chambers [Dec 10]

"Conditional love seems to be part of everyone’s DNA. Unconditional love, the kind that allows hope to renew wounded hearts and damaged emotions, seems nonexistent." (Kathy Jimerson, Destiny in Bloom) [December 17]

"I think the truth is that anytime you begin to relentlessly and passionately pursue closer fellowship with God, it rocks other people's boats." Melissa Aulds [Dec 31]

Friday, December 17, 2010

Eye Gossip

Today, as I was taking care of some stuff online, I did what I usually do every 2-3 days: I popped on to and got caught up in the lives of our current celebrities. Seeing a new story about the continuing fall of a young celebrity, I followed the link to an outside source. This link carried the latest update but was also filled with some very inappropriate photos. (not completely explicit but enough to know what was going on). I was shocked that a 'reputable' online magazine would link to such a site, but then again ... why was I? And why did 'reputable' come to mind anyway? It's definition is "having a good reputation; honored, trustworthy, or respectable".

Immediately, I felt the presence of Holy Spirit and this questioning of why was I there. I could feel sadness from Holy Spirit, not accusation. Why was I there? What about all of this stirred me? What did it feed in me? What good did it offer me?

A year-and-a-half ago I wrote a blog for Destiny In Bloom about "the little 'g' word" ... gossip. This blog came to mind and I opened it up to read through it again after all this time. I was appalled and now fully aware of how long gossip has been a struggle for my flesh. I know the Lord has gotten my attention when it comes to speaking to others about others. I definitely don't get it right 100% of the time, but compared to where I was years ago, conviction is right at my doorstep now instead of days or weeks later.

But what of this kind of gossip? The kind that allows me access to the private lives of people I don't know and will never meet. What is so tantalizing about the dirt of celebrity lives? Because let's be real ... most of what's printed is not to lift up or edify anyone - minus the occasional wedding or new baby cover story. It's salacious stories meant to tear down and defame, and report on the latest scandal or act.

I Googled scriptures on gossip and was immediately convicted by this scripture:

Romans 1:29 – “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips.”
Reading through my blog, another scripture jumped off the pages:

Proverbs 15:9(a) – The way of the wicked is an abomination, extremely disgusting and shamefully vile to the Lord...

And what of the definition of a person who gossips?

Gossip - a person who habitually talks about other people, usually maliciously.
Wow! The weight of all of this is finally hitting my heart.

Proverbs 15:9(b) ...but He loves him who pursues righteousness (moral and spiritual rightness in EVERY area and relation).

And then I came to the ending of my DIB blog:
God is asking me if I am ready to move beyond revelation and into real change.

Something I read a couple days ago really hit my heart and summed up my thoughts on receiving revelation versus the heart’s willingness to pursue real change.

“Matthew uses the Greek verb thelo. It’s translated “to will, to wish, to desire.” There’s another Greek verb that means almost the same thing. It is boulomai. But there is a difference. Thelo implies the action necessary to accomplish the desire. I don’t just want something. I go after it and get it. It is purposeful action toward a goal. Boulomai also means desire, but it does not imply I actually do something about it. There is no consequent action.

This small shift in meaning is the essential core of a lot of repetitive sinful behavior. Those of us who have been awakened to the realm of the Spirit know the difference between good and bad. We don’t usually sin in ignorance. We sin in defiance. We simply aren’t willing (thelo) to give it up. Yeshua has done all that needs to be done to rescue us from our tragic state of existence, but we aren’t buying. Why? Because we really aren’t willing to change. We want the benefits of grace without the pain and suffering of repentance. We want the Messiah without the blood. As Albert King used to say, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” [skip moen]
I can see clearly now how boulomai plays out in one's life: desire without change (because I've done nothing to change my behavior). How could I have expected my desire to change if I'm still feeding the monster? Gossip is wicked. And getting off on someone else's tragedy is just as shamefully vile. I hear you, Lord!

So, here is my declaration:

I will not, from this point forward, engage in reading gossip magazines of any kind. No or check out stand magazine racks. I will no longer feed my soul the trash of malicious writers. I will no longer perpetuate the rampant invasion of private lives by participating in online voyeurism. I am cutting that bondage out of my life and stepping forward into freedom. In Jesus' Name. Amen and So Be It!

An Expanded Promise

This morning I was sitting on the couch, house quiet because kids were still asleep, cuddled up in a blanket with a fresh cup of "Joy, Joy, Joy!" at my side, reading through scripture; specifically the passage that God has given me for 2011 from Isaiah 43.

This is what the LORD says— 
   he who made a way through the sea, 
   a path through the mighty waters, 
17 who drew out the chariots and horses, 
   the army and reinforcements together, 
and they lay there, never to rise again, 
   extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 
18 “Forget the former things; 
   do not dwell on the past. 
19 See, I am doing a new thing! 
   Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? 
I am making a way in the wilderness 
   and streams in the wasteland.

I was letting His Words run through my veins, filling me up for today. Soaking in His promise is a strong desire for me, stronger than I've ever known; partly because I am learning of the purpose of promise and the necessity of choosing sides. But also because I'm continually growing in my understanding of washing with the Word and filling with it too.

[I will have this passage memorized soon so that I can pull from it every time the enemy comes to whisper a lie about God's promise and attempts to pull the rug out from under my feet]

As I was reading, I continued through verses 20 & 21. I couldn't believe that they had not stood out for me so prominently last week. Maybe it was the translation I was reading? Maybe it was purposed that way. But I saw a continued promise in them, one so appropriately tied into my 2011 passage.

20 The wild animals honor me, 
   the jackals and the owls, 
because I provide water in the wilderness 
   and streams in the wasteland, 
to give drink to my people, my chosen, 
 21 the people I formed for myself 
   that they may proclaim my praise.

I love that God has chosen to expand my understanding of why this promise. After the revelation Wednesday night regarding water and words (Dinner Prophecy) these two verses are a necessary part of the promise. Water is not only a biological necessity for our survival (God provides for our physical needs), but the water of Holy Spirit (the waterfall of words) is necessary not only for our spiritual survival but reNEWal. And all of this provision, whether it be physical or spiritual, is given for one purpose:
"...that they may proclaim my praise"!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dinner Prophecy

Wednesday evening has become mine and Anthony's default date night; not because we just can't seem to find another night that works, but because it's guaranteed alone time while Teighlor and Alec are at MOR for three hours.

Last night, after dropping the kids off, Anthony decided to treat me to El Paseo. While I'm not a huge fan of the food, I do love their chips/salsa and their frozen margarita! With a new year right around the corner and a more full understanding of how our financial picture is going to change, this dinner was a treat because date nights - without extra provision - will require a lot more creativity come January.

At some point in the dinner, our conversation turned to discussion of Holy Spirit, gifts and what it means to walk in them. I shared the prophecy challenge I had given Coli during my time with her last week, and Anthony turned that challenge back on me ... right there in the restaurant. Do I believe what I believe only when the timing seems perfect, or do I believe that God is ALWAYS speaking and just waiting for us to stop long enough to listen to him (as I shared with Anthony)?

So in a busy restaurant full of people and noise, I closed my eyes and asked God what he wanted to share with Anthony in that moment. Immediately I received an image in my mind's eye: A huge heart wrapped in flesh being constantly soaked by a waterfall. With this image I also received the understanding of what each represented: The heart was Anthony and the waterfall was God, through Holy Spirit, constantly pouring out on him. That was God's specific word to Anthony, but I also knew that He had just solidified the fact that HE IS ALWAYS POURING OUT...ALWAYS!

As we continued to talk, the vision was expanded upon. It was as if the focus was pulled in and I could see detail this time. Instead of seeing water pouring down, the waterfall was actually made up of millions of words ...  the Words of God being spoken over Anthony. Anything you could think of, whether it be words of comfort, encouragement, revelation, promise or the love that fills His heart for each of us all day long, was creating the water of life saturating Anthony constantly. It was such a beautiful revelation!

I could see how this vision could be detailed in a work of art, with the heart being a person though. But Anthony immediately began spilling out a very detailed script of how this vision could be filmed and turned into a short video. It could bring visual life to words, the same way The Nativity brought the Christmas story to life or what The Passion of the Christ brought to Jesus' ministry, crucifixion and resurrection. Obviously, not on that scope, but in the same way that a book (think The Bema) or movie expanded our understanding of a specific Biblical event, this video could capture a visual representation of what the outpouring of Words of Life may look like.

It was a great conversation so covered in God's words and creativity. And it brought the truth of ALWAYS to the forefront. God IS always speaking ... if we'll simply take the time to stop and listen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Timely Encouragement

As I was going through the huge piles of paperwork that have accumulated on my desk, I came across some handwritten notes obviously taken during a church service of some kind. These are not dated, but I can tell from their condition that they are over a year old. And considering I don't remember writing them, they could be older because I usually remember the notes I take.

Reading through them, I was amazed at the content, the fact that I had saved them this long AND the timing of me "happening" upon them again. Here's what I wrote back 'then':

  • When we surrender what God has asked us to, He will always bless us. God doesn't work in subtraction (taking from our lives), He works in multiplication (more than adding to our lives). 
  • Surrendering what He's asked always takes us to another level of blessing and relationship with God.
  • Delayed or partial obedience is still disobedience.
  • The toughest thing to surrender are our blessings, not our sins!
  • There are many times when the fulfillment of a promise is often delayed because of the process (consider Abraham and Sarah's promise).
  • "It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God's promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, "Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted." Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead." Hebrews 1:17-19. When we lay our 'Isaac's' down, that is when God provides the blessing; and believe that even if God takes it, He can still resurrect it.
Taking these notes must have meant something to me back 'then', but considering all that has taken place in the past couple weeks, these notes almost feel as if they were taken for now. His ways are so much higher than mine!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Prophetic Words

During my time with Coli today, part of our conversation revolved around the prophetic. I challenged her to speak prophetically over me. More appropriately, to seek Holy Spirit on my behalf right there, on the spot. This is what she was given:

1) I saw a red and orange heart that was on fire. I saw it triple its size very quickly. It was an expanded heart. It was the opposite of what happened to the grinch.

2) I saw a plane in the sky and heard "journey across the nations". I got the sense that God would be introducing your heart to stories from different nations, starting very soon.

3) Future - I saw you wearing a skirt suit in what looked like a board room. You were not working there as a professional and did not belong there on a regular basis. You were there for a specific purpose.

4) Past - I saw some unknown material being twisted like the wrapping of a hershey kiss. I was not given the meaning but sensed you would.

#1 spoke immediately to me. It was a confirmation of what God is doing in my heart - He is expanding my ability to love and know what love really is. It's been my desire for two years now, but I had just spoken that morning to Anthony (before my time with Coli) that I know that I am finally walking in that with Jesus. My heart is overwhelmed so often these days. I cry. I feel deeply things I've never felt before. I understand people's situations with my heart now and not just my head. I am burdened when others are. I am hurting when others are. I am rejoicing when others are. My heart is expanding because of Jesus. 

#2 & #3 are yet to be seen.

#4 is something that didn't strike an immediate chord in me, but I plan on sitting before God and asking about this one. All prophecy must be confirmed, right?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Promise

"God is going to come and whisper a promise to many of you."
Pastor Brady Boyd's prophetic words from his Luke 1 message on December 5th.

I was in my prayer closet this afternoon asking for the words God had for Jason (for this season in his life). In the midst of hearing and writing, I laid down to get temporarily lost in a worship song. It just felt like the thing to do. 

As I was singing I stopped and spoke out loud, "God, what is your promise?" Instantly, these words came to my heart: "I will walk with you through everything; the highs and the lows." I grabbed my journal and wrote them down and waited for more. Surely there had to be more. Maybe I had interrupted Holy Spirit's download when I bolted up to get my journal. So I waited, and waited, and waited some more. But nothing more came. 

And then I asked God, "Is that it?" I didn't mean is that all there is, like I had just been jipped or something. I was asking if that was the complete promise or if He had something more to say. Yep, that's His promise. Okay. A promise doesn't have to be long and complicated. I accept that and receive it.

So I asked for a confirmation through scripture. I wanted to know what He had to say through His Word. This is what I directed to read:

This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves.
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—they lie down and then can't get up; they're snuffed out like so many candles:
"Forget about what's happened; don't keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! I'm making a road through the desert and rivers in the badlands."
~ Isaiah 43:16-21 [The Message]

If I join both the Promise and the scripture I get this: He will be with us in every moment regardless of our perception of it being high or low. He is a God who does the impossible, and He is charging us to stay present as He births something new in our lives.

Amen and AMEN!

Detour Through the Desert (December's DIB Article)

Recently, I began reading one of my most beloved books, Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard, as a prompting from Holy Spirit as I was praying through things on my heart; one of which was the message that God wanted to write through me for Destiny In Bloom.  I felt really impressed to share this portion with you:

Then one day the path turned a corner and to her amazement and consternation she saw a great plain spread out beneath them. As far as the eye could see there seemed to be nothing but desert, and endless expanse of sand dunes, with not a tree in sight. To the horror of Much-Afraid her two guides prepared to take the steep path downward.
She stopped dead and said to them, “We mustn’t go down there. The Shepherd has called me to the High Places.” But they made signs to her that she was to follow them down the steep pathway to the desert below.
“I can’t go down there,” panted Much-Afraid, sick with shock and fear. “He can never mean that—never!” He called me up, and this is an absolute contradiction of all that he promised.” She then lifted up her voice and called desperately, “Shepherd, come to me. Oh, I need you. Come and help me.”
In a moment he was there, standing beside her.
“Shepherd,” she said despairingly, “I can’t understand this. The guides you gave me say that we must go down there into that desert, turning right away from the High Places altogether. You don’t mean that, do you? You can’t contradict yourself. Tell them we are not to go there, and show us another way. Make a way for us, Shepherd, as you promised.”
He looked at her and answered very gently, “That is the path, Much-Afraid, and you are to go down there.”
“Oh, no,” she cried. “You can’t mean it. You said if I would trust you, you would bring me to the High Places, and that path leads right away from them. It contradicts all that you promised.”
“No,” said the Shepherd, “it is not contradiction, only postponement for the best to become possible.”
Much-Afraid felt as though he had stabbed her to the heart. “You mean,” she said incredulously, “you really mean that I am to follow that path down and down into that wilderness and then over that desert away from the mountains indefinitely? Why” (and there was a sob of anguish in her voice) “it may be months, even years, before that path leads back to the mountains again. Oh Shepherd, do you mean it is indefinite postponement?”
He bowed his head silently, and Much-Afraid sank on her knees at his feet, almost overwhelmed. He was leading her away from her heart’s desire altogether and gave no promise at all as to when he would bring her back. As she looked out over what seemed an endless desert, the only path she could see led farther and farther away from the High Places, and it was all desert.
The he answered very quietly, “Much-Afraid, do you love me enough to accept the postponement and the apparent contradiction of the promise, and to go down there with me into the desert?”
She was still crouching at his feet, sobbing as if her heart would break, but now she looked up through her tears, caught his hand in hers, and said, trembling, “I do love you, you know that I love you. Oh, forgive me because I can’t help my tears. I will go down with you into the wilderness, right away from the promise, if you really wish it. Even if you cannot tell me why it has to be, I will go with you, for you know I do love you, and you have the right to choose for me anything that you please.”
“Much-Afraid,” he said, “all of my servants on their way to the High Places have had to make this detour through the desert. It is called ‘The furnace of Egypt, and a horror of great darkness’. Here they have learned many things that otherwise they would have known nothing about. Those who go down to the furnace go on their way afterwards as royal men and women, princes and princesses of the Royal Line.”
“Fear not, Much-Afraid, to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation; I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again” (Genesis 46:3).
On the last morning she was walking near the tents and huts of the desert dwellers, when in a lonely corner behind a wall she came upon a little golden-yellow flower, growing all alone. An old pipe was connected with a water tank. In the pipe was one tiny hole through which came an occasional drop of water. Where the drops fell one by one, there grew the little golden flower, though where the seed had come from, Much-Afraid could not imagine, for there were no birds anywhere and no other growing things.
She stopped over the lonely, lovely little golden face, lifted up so hopefully and so bravely to the feeble drip, and cried out softly, “What is your name, little flower, for I never saw one like you before?”
The tiny plant answered at once in a tone as golden as itself, “Behold me! My name is Acceptance-with-Joy.”
Much-Afraid thought of the things which she had seen in the desert: the threshing-floor and the whirring wheel and the fiery furnace. Somehow the answer of the little golden flower which grew all alone in the waste of the desert stole into her heart and echoed there faintly but sweetly, filling her with comfort.
She said to herself, “He has brought me here when I did not want to come for his own purpose. I, too, will look up into his face and say, ‘Behold me! I am thy little handmaiden Acceptance-with-Joy.’” (pp. 80-91)

I don’t know how many of you have read this classic book, but it is a stunningly beautiful allegory of the journey of Much-Afraid—the story’s main character who was not only crippled with fear but with some physical malformations—from the Valley of Humiliation where she lives to the ‘High Places’ and the anticipated destination of the Kingdom of Love. In order to make the pilgrimage to the High Places where the Shepherd longs to take her, Much-Afraid must make the decision to leave what she knows behind her and venture into the unknown; the Shepherd will not, and cannot, force her.

When Much-Afraid finally summons the courage to leave the valley and her family: Craven Fear, Resentment, Bitterness, Self-Pity and Pride, the Shepherd assigns two hand-picked guides to travel with her: Sorrow and Suffering. It is at this point, early on in the story, that Much-Afraid’s journey begins. I will not give away anymore of the story but will share a glimpse into some of the lands through which she will have to travel: the Desert (Egypt), the Great Precipice, and the Forests of Danger and Tribulation.

As I was reading through Much-Afraid’s reaction to facing the desert (the passage with which I began this article), I was filled with the overwhelming sense that the words which were speaking volumes to my heart were also very much needed by many who read Destiny In Bloom.

Although we are surrounded this time of year with an ever-present reminder of the season of joy we celebrate—the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ—it does not mean that every heart is merry. On the contrary, it is because of this time of year that many who are burdened feel as if their weight has doubled, and it is for them this passage was illuminated.

Further into Much-Afraid’s journey, the Shepherd speaks to her as she lays down her will upon a small altar she had made of sand and stones, “This further delay is not unto death, but for the glory of God; that the son of God may be glorified” (John 11). 

Reading this, I was filled with a sense of promise that Jesus was looking into those hearts that are hurting and wooing them who need to be comforted, encouraged and reignited with the flame of hope.

As Much-Afraid traveled out of the desert and resumed her journey to the High Places, the story continued in this way:

…for something had happened in the wilderness which had left a mark upon her for the rest of her life. It was an inner and secret mark, and no one would have noticed any difference outwardly, but all the same, a deep inner change had taken place. She did not understand how it had happened, but what the Shepherd had said had come to pass in herself, for those who go down into the furnace of Egypt and find there the flower of Acceptance come up changed and with the stamp of royalty upon them. It is true that Much-Afraid did not feel at all royal, and certainly did not as yet look it. Nevertheless, she had been stamped with the mark and would never be the same.
Therefore, though she went with Sorrow and Suffering day after day along the shore of the great sea of Loneliness, she did not go cringingly or complainingly. Indeed, gradually an impossible thing seemed to be happening. A new kind of joy was springing up in her heart, and she began to find herself noticing beauties in the landscape of which until then she had been quite unconscious. (pp. 94-95)

In various seasons of our lives, we all face heartache, trials, sorrow and suffering; and for some, this season holds more for you than others. What was lit in my heart, as I read about Much-Afraid’s journey into and through the desert, was a strong desire to encourage those who are walking in that season right now. My hope is that the words spoken by the Shepherd to Much-Afraid will resonate as Jesus speaking to you. It is the voice of our Savior—our tender, compassionate and loving Shepherd—that heals our heartache and makes light our burdens.

The story of Much-Afraid does not end with her being left in the lowlands but unwinds with her transformation, both spiritually and physically. In reading this book, again, Jesus has revealed to me a seed of fear that is an obstacle in my own transformation. I have chosen to travel with Much-Afraid because, just like her, my desire is for the High Places.

“The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me walk upon nine high places.” Habakkuk 3:19

“But He knows the way that I take [He has concern for it, appreciates, and pays attention to it]. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as refined gold [pure and luminous].” (Job 23:10)

If you have never read the story of Much-Afraid, I encourage you to do so. We all have something in us that requires the loving touch and transformation of our Savior. This book will take you on a beautifully descriptive journey and may just show you something about yourself and Jesus that you’ve never seen before.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Lessons from a Black Jack Table

"All of my chips are on the table. Even when it's mysterious, risky or dangerous, I'll say yes."

This is one of the points that stood out for me when I was listening to Pastor Brady's message Luke 1. (If you are reading this and are confused as to where this comes from, go back and read my three previous blogs for the whole back story.)

I had to include the reference of "all my chips are on the table" because it so instantly resonated with my time at Anthony's Christmas party this past Friday evening. With it being a casino night, we were all given $3,000 of fun money. I played on the black jack table because it's a card game I know well. Before the night was over that original $3,000 had grown into $300,000! I didn't have it all at one time, but I had winnings of $100,000-$150,000 at any given time. 

What I remember so distinctly, though, is my goal to win enough hands to be able to earn one Pink chip worth $10,000. That is the photo above that Anthony took because I was so excited when that goal was hit. I was jumping up and down! And then that one pink chip grew because I was willing to risk what I had. 

At one point, Curtis -- Anthony's co-worker -- had a pink chip of his own. He asked me to bet mine and he would bet his. I was so nervous. I had worked hard for that chip and even though it didn't really belong to me I didn't want to risk losing it on one hand of black jack. But then Anthony said, "Go big or go home." I was IN! It turns out I had a hand that allowed me a great opportunity to 'double-down'. I had to put up another $10,000 on this ONE hand. "Go big or go home", right? So I scraped up my other winnings and put them in. I could barely look. I was either hitting it big or I was out of the game. And it hit! I won $40,000 on that ONE hand; and then the winnings just continued to increase from there. 

Once I moved past the initial fear of that first big hand, the thrill of being able to do it again was contagious. I remember saying how fun it was to be able to venture out where I wouldn't in real life because the money wasn't mine to begin with. It was all going back to the 'house' at the end of the night anyway. 

As I listened to the podcast, I was reminded of this night: the (almost) terror of letting go of something I had worked for and wanted so badly; the excitement of making the decision to put it all out there whether it came back or not; and the thrill of watching what I was willing to give up not only come back but be doubled, tripled and quadrupled.

A turning point in the night? Betting $100,000 on one hand of black jack not caring whether or not I won it back. By that time I had put so many large bets on the table that it no longer felt right settling on something smaller. I had gone with smaller amounts because that's all I was able to put up, but now I had the opportunity to risk more and I wasn't turning back.

And then the sweetest moment was saved for last. I held onto one Pink chip throughout the night. It just felt right. We soon heard of a sweet lady on another table who wanted so badly to win enough for "one pink chip". After my last hand, I walked over and gave her mine. I had already been overwhelmingly blessed with 30 throughout the night and I  wanted her to know the thrill of that one pink chip. 

Can you see where this is all going? the metaphor God was unveiling through a simple night of fun at a company Christmas party? 

Although gambling fun money at a black jack table is not the same as giving to someone in need from your own bank account, their is a beautiful message that translates to God's promises of giving: we have to be willing to let go of that which we've worked for and strived to build up, because in reality, it doesn't belong to us anyway; it belongs to the House.

Unwavering Faith Confirmed

"God is going to come and whisper a promise to many of you."

Laying in bed last night, I found myself unable to fall asleep. I just wasn't tired. So out came the iPod. Time to plug into my step-Pastor, Brady Boyd, and see what God was speaking through him this week.

Side note: I call Pastor Brady my step-Pastor because this past summer I began reading his blog, which prompted the thought to check out his podcasts. Although I never got the chance to hear him preach while he was still with Gateway, he's come back as a guest speaker several times since his move to New Life three years ago. Each time I have been blown away by his teaching. So, this summer I downloaded every message to a series titled Supernatural that he did from January through March of this year. It was so good, so rich, so full of truth and heavenly teaching, that I've listened to every message from that point forward. It has taken quite a bit of time to play catch up because many messages I listen to 3-5 a piece, but I now can say that I am at the point of waiting for the next week to roll around so I can listen to my step-Pastor teach.   :)

Seeing the title of the message, Luke 1, I assume he's starting a Christmas series. Nice. Most pastors only do one Christmas message a year, so I'm kind of excited to see what's coming. Yeah, well. All I can say is this was NOT your ordinary Christmas message by any shake of the tail. As a matter of fact, I'm STILL reeling from the fact that I was expecting "sweet baby Jesus lying in a manger" and I got hit upside the heart with a message on the promises of God; and received total confirmation that what God was speaking to me earlier in the day was not misheard or misunderstood.

I'm simply going to re-write the notes and direct quotes I took from this message:

  • "God is going to come and whisper a promise to many of you." Pastor Brady spoke these as prophetic words and I received them knowing full well I was one of the many.
  • The people who believe that whatever God says He can do, these are those with great purpose.
  • If you believe it then God will come to you and give you something beyond your abilities--almost impossible--unnatural. This is the test of what you really believe.
  • Will you nod with your head AND follow with your heart? Will you move forward when He calls you to the impossible?
  • Yet Abraham did not waiver in his unbelief. He was fully persuaded that what God promises, God does.
  • All of my chips are on the table. Even when it's mysterious, risky or dangerous, I'll say yes. 
  • I don't have any preconceived ideas about 'how' it will happen, but I trust and believe in Your ability.
  • God is able if we are willing.
  • The journey is about trusting God for every moment; not with a lack of wisdom but with reckless abandon. (I LOVED THIS!!! This was my word!)
"He did not waiver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform." Romans 4:18-20

As I listened to this message I hit God up with this question: "God, what is your promise? I know what you want--I know what you've spoken to my heart regarding finances--but what is the promise?"

I know, without doubt, that we will follow what He's asked, but I don't want to pull a promise out of hat that seems to go along with this. I want a specific promise from God. And I'm praying for that.

Obey Irrationally. Give Extravagantly.

I just love it when God sneaks up on me and allows Holy Spirit to douse me with revelation in the same way a winning coach gets doused with Gatorade at the end of a championship game. Although I've come to expect revelation because that's just how God works, I love the unexpected nature and timing in which He works. It's refreshing and exhilarating all at the same time.

So, I'm listening to our guest speaker for the weekend, Craig Groeschel from LifeChurch, and it's one of those messages where you just know it's gonna be good. Two of his talking points were:

1. Obey Irrationally
2. Give Extravagantly

Apparently there was a third point, but I must have missed it while I was furiously writing down what Holy Spirit was depositing in me. I will be going back to listen to this message again, but I was told by the kids that point #3 is "they (those who obey and give) do what other's believe cannot be done." Glad to know they were paying attention!!! :)

In the midst of the message, Craig delivers a great one-liner: "Don't increase your standard of living. Increase your standard of giving."

ZING! Those words resonated with me immediately and brought back to mind another one-liner I held onto from Francis Chan's Crazy Love: "When it's hard and you are doubtful, give more."

I will not rabbit trail here when I so easily could, I will simply state that God has been carefully depositing wisdom riches into my heart regarding Giving; and it's been a fun 6-month journey (so far) of transformation, bit by small bit.

Back to the present. As soon as those golden nuggets wash across my thoughts, Holy Spirit begins to speak instruction and revelation regarding our recent financial change, and I wrote down what I "heard":

  1. Our [monthly] salary is decreasing so let's increase our tithe.
  2. Let's do an offering by giving all of December's provision [back] to God.
  3. The payroll schedule change is not meant as a detriment to us but as a way to free up money for extravagant giving. Those 3rd paychecks in July and December (2011) are not ours but His, and we are to seek Holy Spirit for guidance in how we are to give them away according to God's plan and purpose. This change is His gift to us. It's not to take [from] us but to take us [to] another level of giving.
Now let me add my thoughts...
  1. Increasing our monthly tithe percentage makes NO sense at all to the human mind because our monthly salary is going to reduce, not increase, come January. Living on less, we're to give more? Yep. That's what I heard as clear as day. Okay.
  2. It was comforting to know God had provided a little cushion for December, a month that always seems to be a bit more costly than others. Now we're to give that back to God. Okay.
  3. As I wrote in the previous blog, I wasn't nervous about the change, I just couldn't put my finger on the purpose of the plan. Well, God didn't waste much time in fleshing that plan out for us. We're being invited to a Higher Place and we must journey with a willing attitude of sacrifice. Okay.
After the message is over, I'm practically bouncing around (inside) waiting to share this revelation with Anthony. What's ironic is that even though I'm speaking words that make zero sense on paper, there's an unmistakable excitement brewing in me--one that defies human logic or intellect. 

[I] would never have thought of increasing tithe on reduced income. 
[I] would never have thought to give back December's provision. 
[I] would never have planned setting aside whole paychecks so they could be used for extravagant giving. 

What is so utterly reassuring about all of this is that God's plans leave no room for me to take any credit for any of this. We should be shaking in our boots wondering how this is all going to work out. Instead, we're smiling because we have no idea how all of this is going to work out. There is a peace that passes all human understanding in this. And that is why our only possible answer - and first reaction - is YES!

Obey Irrationally and Give Extravagantly!

a NEW journey has begun

I am making myself sit down today and purge all that is in my heart and head from the past ... well, I guess today would make it one week. And I am going to use bullet points to purposely make my brain think more concisely (knowing my tendency towards verboseness), although concise may still be a bit lengthy. Here goes:
  1. On November 16 we got some good financial news. My first response was a big Thank You to God because all good things come from Him. My next thought was this "knowing in my knower" that He had just provided for a need we didn't know was coming. I even verbalized this to Anthony. That's the truth. I just knew there was another purpose for [this] and I was completely okay with that. God was providing. That's all that mattered.
  2. Last Monday (November 30) I sat down to do a little financial figuring because Anthony's benefits re-enrollment for 2011 was upon us. Three hours later, after figuring in the rising cost of benefits, I had a pretty good snapshot of how 2011 would play out for us on paydays. And then...
  3. Anthony came home with news that some things were changing at his company and a couple of those changes would affect us financially. One of those changes was a more-than-likely removal of a monthly expense reimbursement. That "knowing" in point #1 now made sense. Okay. God had arranged for provision before we even knew we needed it. I'm THANKFUL! And then...
  4. Anthony shared that payroll was changing. The company was moving from a bi-monthly to bi-weekly pay schedule effective January; from 24 to 26 paychecks annually. Hmmm. That means two extra paychecks a year but less money in each check. And with the way Fridays run in 2011, we won't see that extra check until the end of July. So...
  5. All this means that, come January, our monthly income will be reduced from what we currently live on today. Not the way I had thought it would all flesh out, but I wasn't nervous; I just couldn't put my finger on any kind of plan that would help this make sense. Interesting. And yet...
  6. When I shared all of this with Coli, there was an excitement and a tangible sense of peace about it all. Having our financial picture change - for what seems the worse - in just a little under a month meant that however it all worked out we couldn't take any of the credit for it. God is not surprised (the one Christian cliche' I actually do love and use). And there were two thoughts that stood out in my heart...
  7. With this move from Keller to NRH (and from a house to an apartment) came a theme to a current journey we're walking: SIMPLIFY. In my blog Closure on Moving, I wrote about God's confirmation in 1 Kings 17 and what I discovered about the Brook Cherith. Cherith (in Hebrew) means to cut away or cut off. Well, maybe this payroll change is another step on that journey of learning how to live with less; of learning how to cut even deeper. And then...
  8. God could very well be priming us to watch Him work; he could be putting us in such a place of dependency that in order to really make this work, He will have to come through in another way. Anthony's paychecks, the very thing we work our budget around, are not going to provide in the same way we have grown used to. Okay. Yet still...
  9. It could not just be (A) Cutting back, or (B) God providing and getting all the glory, but it could be (C) A combination of both. What if we'll not only learn how to live differently [again] but also watch God provide in ways that we wouldn't even think to ask or imagine? And then...
  10. Sunday morning's message happens and God speaks like crazy! 
And here is where I break this blog up for the purpose of time, length and an easy to archive format.