More of the same

17 August 2017
“What’s going on today, Lord?” I asked. Somewhere in the back of my conscious (finally awake) mind, I could hear How Great Is Our God, being sung. For a few moments I had just stretched and listened – and agreed with – those powerful words, then asked him that question.

“More of the same, accelerated and intensified,” he answered. Suddenly in my mind’s eye I saw fires again, popping up here and there across America.

I’ve seen and written about prophetic fires before: fires of revival. Small pockets of revival, spreading, enlarging and joining, until a conflagration of glorious Holy Spirit fire is burning coast to coast. Burning away dross, chaff, sin, decay, sickness and disease. Leaving wholeness and holiness, God’s creative life and that “more abundantly” in its wake. (John 10:10.)

These current images weren’t like that, though. These were destructive, toxic, evil. Then he reminded me – nothing that ever happens is a surprise to the Lord. He has a plan for believers to respond to every event, and he’s more than willing to tell us how to do that. Respond, not react. Be a thermostat, not a thermometer. How?! Ask him. Then listen!

Tinkering around the edges

I was just wondering what the Lord was up to this evening, wondering if maybe he’d like for me to do something different from what I was doing (reading stuff online), like pray, study, or what… when he said, “I’m tinkering around the edges.” Huh?

“When I see a loose thread, I’m pulling it.” Loose thread? What does that mean? I asked.

Some loose threads lead to knots, he said. Knotty problems. Knotty emotions. Knotty headaches and heartaches. So, I’m carefully pulling the loose threads, untangling the knots.

I suddenly visualized knotted muscles, knotted nerves, knotted relationships, and now a gentle scarred hand, painstakingly and patiently untangling those knots, soothing as he goes.

Say goodbye

Go say goodbye to your yard, He said. My yard? Okay.

cannaeisen002I stopped what I was doing and walked out into my back yard. I looked at the grass, the mixture of Centipede and Charleston grass that had taken so long to grow. I looked around at the peach trees and the pear trees, the azalea bushes, the Eisenhower cannas, the pine trees and the dogwoods.

As I turned my head this way and that, I said goodbye to them all in my mind, noticing the bark, the color of the leaves, the needles, even the rows of weed and dirt in the side garden. The willow tree – telling that goodbye was especially hard.

I walked back and forth around the back yard and the front yard, all the way to the edge of the far driveway where a solitary quince bush grew. I walked and talked in my mind to the yard, saying goodbye to each thing I saw.

I told the remnants of flowers and shrubs in the flower beds near the house goodbye. I told the place where the baby magnolia tree had once been, mowed down “by accident,” goodbye.

Even the storage shed where the garden tools were kept, even the carport utility room with the deep freeze full of frozen meats and vegetables, even the paved driveway from carport to the street, I told them all goodbye.

For so long I had yearned for things to be calm and peaceful in my household. I had quit trying to be right all the time, even when I was right. I had tried to quit worrying about money, how to make ends meet on my salary alone when my husband’s paycheck was spent on pinball, poker games and beer before he ever got home after payday.

I had done everything I knew to do to cook country-style meals, cooked long and seasoned like my mother-in-law’s. I had gotten up early and stayed up late, working in the garden picking vegetables, then shelling, freezing and canning, plus kept up with the laundry, ironing, vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing and dusting.

All those things that have to be done in a house, I did, since that was a “woman’s job,” even though I worked in an office all day. After all, my husband kept up the seven acres of yards and garden, planted, weeded, fertilized, plowed, fed the hogs, broke the corn, did all those things after working on a city truck all day. When he came home after work, that is.

But nothing I did was ever enough, nothing was ever right enough, or fast enough, or something else enough to suit him. Actually, ever since I’d given my life to the Lord, nothing about me suited him any more.

That winter I had fasted and prayed for my marriage, my unsaved husband and my young teenage children. Weekends my husband seldom came home at all any more. I took the children to Sunday School and church on Sundays, came home and fixed dinner, then rested and read until time to eat a sandwich, then went back to church on Sunday nights.

As a church musician I needed to be there. As a Christian at the end of my rope, I needed to be there.

Then I heard that voice deep in my heart, Go say goodbye to your yard, and I did. As I completed my circle of the yard and garden, He spoke again. Say goodbye to your house.

The house and land had been purchased with my mother’s life insurance money as down payment. A lot of the furniture, dishes and other stuff had been my mother’s or grandmother’s. Was I supposed to tell it all goodbye? Yes, tell it goodbye.

So I walked from room to room saying goodbye, to the piano, cuckoo clock and linen chest that had been my mother’s. To the beds and dressers and chests of drawers, even the sheets and pillows, blankets and bedspreads on the beds.

I said goodbye to all the stored boxes in the attic, all the books on the shelves, the living room drapes, the bedroom and dining room curtains, the dishes, pots and pans, refrigerator and stove. I said goodbye to the electric mixer, the mops and brooms, the detergents and bleach, the roach spray, the mouse traps, even the floor wax.

I said goodbye to all the jars of tomatoes I had canned, all the home-made pickles, the groceries in the pantry and in the refrigerator. I said goodbye to my washer and dryer.

I told the lamps, the ottoman, the platform rocker that had been my grandfather’s, the french provincial armchair and sofa that had been my mother’s, the china cabinet that had been my grandmother’s, I told them all goodbye.

I even said goodbye to the dirty clothes in the closet, the wet washcloths, the soap and shampoo, and all of my children’s belongings. I said goodbye to the pictures on the walls, the carpet and linoleum, the pink bedroom reading lamp that had been my grandmother’s, even the ceiling light fixtures.

I walked from room to room, looking from floor to ceiling, wall to wall, leaving nothing out. I opened every bedroom closet door and said goodbye to the hanging clothes, the dresses, shirts, skirts, winter coats and jackets, folded sweaters and assorted stored stuff on the top shelves.

I opened the hall linen closet and said goodbye to the folded sheets and towels, the extra quilts and blankets, my knitting supplies, yarn and needles.

I said goodbye to the gold and tan sheet-size afghan on the back of the sofa, the one I’d spent countless hours knitting, and to the heavy orange and tan lap afghan I had spent countless more hours knitting.

I said goodbye to the sewing machine and the box of patterns I’d used to make my Easter dresses and my children’s school clothes, even the smoked-up sewing box full of needles and thread that had gone through a house fire at my mother’s home.

When I was finally finished, I thought I would be leaving that place immediately, but there were no more instructions that day, just a through-and-through peace in my soul that I had done what was necessary.

Further instructions would come several months later that year (1978), when it was the right time. I didn’t realize until then that He had not told me to say goodbye to my station wagon… I didn’t have to relinquish that; I was going to need it.

 

Led by the Spirit, how does that work?

Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons – mature children – of God. (Romans 8:14)

What does that look like, really? someone asked me recently. How does it work?

Here’s an example... Last Wednesday evening I left a class at church to drive home. Nearing West Palmetto Street, I began “knowing that I knew what I knew” – I wasn’t supposed to go home yet.

But if not home, then where? I wondered. I didn’t know anyone I could just drop in on, without prior notice. I had eaten supper before going to class, but perhaps the McDonald’s at I-95? Or the Huddle House near there?

No, not there, I felt in my gut. So I turned left on Palmetto, waiting for some sort of direction from the Holy Spirit. I live just three minutes from church so it didn’t take long to reach the driveway to my condo, but I knew I was supposed to keep going on towards town.

When I recognized Celebration Boulevard just ahead, I sensed in my spirit that I should turn right, and so I did. And suddenly I knew my destination – another McDonald’s, the one at South Cashua.

I was familiar with that place. During the week after Hurricane Matthew I had spent quite a bit of time there praying with people: folks whose electricity was out, exhausted hospital workers, linemen coming to and from repairing downed power lines, not to mention the weary McDonald’s staff themselves. Although my own power was also out for some days, I had plenty of food and water at home, I wasn’t there for that.

No, the Lord had sent me to that McDonald’s, one of the few places still with electricity and water, to encourage and pray for tired, worried, needy people. The lines were always long, the faces usually long too – there were plenty of opportunities to pray.

And Wednesday evening I had a gut feeling that I would find a needy person to pray for at McDonald’s. While the drive-through was busy, there were no other customers inside. Wondering if the cashiers and cooks were the reason for my visit, I took an order of french fries to a table and sat down.

I prayed as I nibbled, asking the Lord to bless everyone in the building and drive-through, to draw them to himself and meet every need, body, soul and spirit. Several other customers came in as I sat there but none seemed to be a specific prayer target.

I was down to my last few fries when a young man came from behind the counter out into the restaurant, talking on a cell phone. Going by the uniform he was wearing I thought he was probably the assistant manager. Around and around he walked, all the while talking on his phone. Then the voice of the Holy Spirit spoke plainly, “He’s the one.”

The next time he came near enough, I motioned for him to come sit with me. Putting his phone call on hold, he slipped into the booth with a polite, questioning expression on his face. He probably expected a complaint of some kind. I explained that I would like to pray for him, and asked if he believed in Jesus. He said yes, and told me his name.

I asked if there was anything specific he needed prayer for, and he became quiet and thoughtful for a moment or two. Then in a few sentences he shared a worrisome situation that had arisen about his job and his concern for his future with the company. I extended my hand, he took it and we prayed together about all that.

I ate supper at home before I came, I told him, but the Lord loves you very much, he wants the best for you, and he sent me here just to pray for you. He thanked me, I said you’re very welcome, and came home.

That’s how it works, being led by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it’s words, sometimes it’s knowing that you know what you know, sometimes it’s a gut feeling. The Lord can get his directions across to you in a variety of ways – if you’re listening, and if you’re willing to obey him. It may take some practice.

Also see https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/encounters/

Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Prayer and Intercession

Holy-Spirit fireReaders, please notice a new Page titled Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Prayer and Intercession.

This is a series of teachings given during a Sunday School class titled Principles of Prayer and Intercession.

You will need to click on the Page and its menu for individual posts, as they are not automatically distributed via email to subscribers.

I will do my best to update the Page as new material is addressed in class. Please let me know if you have questions about any of these posts, or if you would like to read notes from our previous classes on Prayer and Intercession.

 

Faith is substance

Plasma, stem cells, and faith.

plasmaBeam-plasmaSystemI had an hour-long conversation with the Lord one recent night, as I was wondering what I should read and/or study next.

“Faith,” he said. Faith? I had studied that subject at length several times, even written about it and taught about it.

And then he said, “Faith is a real substance.”  (See Hebrews 11:1)

“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3 NASB)

Well, duh. I knew that already. Everything that is real was and is created with God’s faith. It’s contained and used in his words. Words that have no faith in them don’t do anything. I began to meditate on that.

Faith itself is invisible, but you can see the results, i.e. the evidence of it. Sometimes the result is instant; sometimes it takes quite a while to see the results. But actual, real, faith is creative and the results will be real.

This faith – God faith – is not the same as human faith. It has to be transmitted to us, since we don’t come with it already installed like a computer program. Jesus offered it to the disciples.

  • “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15 NIV)
  • “And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.” (Mark 11:22)

I visualize it sort of like this… you need a pen, I have a pen. I reach out my hand with a pen in it, and say, here, take my pen. You reach out your hand and take it. I offer, you receive.

The disciples accepted Jesus’ offer by believing what he said, receiving what he said as truth. But they didn’t always use their new-found faith.

“Where is your faith?” he asked them, when the storm came up. (Luke 8:25) They had to learn how to use it. He spent a lot of time teaching them with “show and tell.”

Here’s the key: this faith (God faith) has to stay connected to the source (God), otherwise it doesn’t do anything. If it does stay connected and we put it use as directed, it will do things. And it will grow.

After I meditated on that for a while, the Lord spoke again. “What do you know about plasma?” he asked.

Well, I knew it’s interesting stuff but that’s about all. I didn’t remember very much about it, so I did a little internet research. Fascinating reading! I actually understood a little of it from  basic physics back in high school.

The bottom line of my research was this: plasma is real. In itself it’s invisible, though – what you see is the result of it. Neon lights. Lasers. The sun.

It’s been interesting to read up on plasma. What kind of materials (gases, mostly) can become plasma? What does it take to get that material into the plasma state? What happens when plasma loses connection to its instigating power source? (Here’s a hint: it stops being plasma.)

Faith is not plasma, but just as plasma is a real thing although invisible in itself, faith is a real thing, although invisible in itself. It’s been an Interesting study, so far.

Here’s a little simplified article about plasma, What Is Plasma. It’s fascinating material. http://www.rfglobalsolutions.co.uk/what-is-plasma

A more recent day as I was still contemplating faith, the Lord asked me another question. “Stem cells… remember stem cells?”  So I read up a bit on stem cells. Some of what I found is way too complicated for me, scientifically – then I found a more user-friendly site to browse through.

“Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.” (From Stem Cell Basics, http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/pages/basics1.aspx)

Stem cells are even more fascinating than plasma! Faith is like God’s supernatural spiritual stem cells. Amazing. Truly amazing, and wonderful, and humbling.

 

Remember the donkey

DonkeysDiscouraged. Hurt. Angry at God. Disappointed. That’s how I was feeling one morning, after a lot of discouraging things had happened the day before.

And so I had a conversation with the Lord about faith (which I had been studying more about recently).

I told him that it seemed to me faith wasn’t real; that the scriptures about faith weren’t true. The things I had believed in faith when I prayed just were not happening.

I said a lot more than that, of course, but basically I was deciding as I talked that it was pointless for me to pray for anyone or anything, or even go to church any more. What was the point, if what the Bible said would happen when we prayed really DIDN’T happen? If there were no results?

Then Jesus began quietly talking back to me. “Remember the donkey,” he said. “Remember the colt.”

The colt? I began to remember. The week before Passover, on what we call Palm Sunday, Jesus told the disciples to go to a specific place, find a specific donkey and colt, and bring them back to him. (Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 20, John 12.)

I visualized that, could almost see the disciples looking at each other, shrugging their shoulders with unasked questions.

What did the disciples think Jesus was up to? Why did he want a donkey? He and they walked everywhere, didn’t they? We know now why he did it, Matthew 21:5-6 says it was so the prophecies would be fulfilled. But did the disciples know that? Whether or not they knew why, they obeyed him. They went and collected the colt.

“What were the results?” the Lord asked me. That required more thinking on my part. Well, there were several levels of results…

  • Jesus got to his destination. (The Temple in Jerusalem)
  • The crowds began praising Jesus. (Shouting Hosanna)
  • The religious leaders got upset. (Seriously plotting)
  • God kept his timetable. (Crucified on Passover)

This journey on the donkey’s back, the praise from the crowd and the upset Pharisees were necessary steps to instigating the crucifixion by the right date – Passover.

Okay, I said to the Lord. So what does that mean for me, for my prayers, my desire to see you DO something when I pray? What does all that have to do with faith at all? He recapped for me what I had just been thinking:

Immediate results – arrived at destination.
Intermediate results – stirred up opposition necessary to fulfill God’s plan.
Final results – God’s plan fulfilled.

So there are short term results, mid-term results, and long term results. Obviously some answers to prayer, God’s plans, may take a really long time to arrive. But they will arrive.

Then I began to consider that faith question, again.

Faith comes to everybody, but not everybody takes it. (Faith comes by hearing, according to Romans 10:17.) Children have to be told something first, in order to have faith, i.e. trust, just as adults do. A child learning to walk, for example.

“Walk to Mama,” we say. “Come on, you can do it!” We can show him how, help him stand up and get his balance, but we can’t walk for him. The child must obey our words and do something that requires trust in the person speaking. He must take that first, perhaps wobbly step, then another.

He can obey or refuse to obey. If he obeys and experiences positive results, i.e. takes a step or two without being hurt, he acquires trust that this will work. That trust leads to another few steps, i.e. more experience in walking, and more experience becomes stronger trust. Faith that yes, he can do it. He can walk. And pretty soon, he is walking, and running.

That process began with hearing words from someone speaking to him, him trusting the one speaking, accepting those words and obeying them. The faith was actually contained in the words of the trustworthy speaker, but it wasn’t forced on the hearer. The hearer was never forced to accept the words as true or trustworthy, he had to make a choice. Choose to believe the person speaking, or not believe the person speaking. And choose, sometimes really often, to keep on believing.

“Remember the donkey,” the Lord said. That was pretty much the end of my conversation with him that morning, but I’ve been thinking more about it since.

Getting answers to some prayers – certain long term results – seems like too much hard work for many of us. Too much painful trouble. Too much stress. Too much time, too much energy, too much disappointment, too much anguish. Too much waiting.

That’s what I was thinking when that familiar voice interrupted my thoughts with a whisper: “Long term results begin with short term results.” I thought some more.

I began to think about the Olympics. About Usain Bolt winning an Olympic gold medal in running… how did that begin? Well, it began with him hearing those first words, “Go for it, you can do it, you can do it.” It began with him believing those words and accepting them as true. Stepping out to obey, to try, to gain experience. To fail sometimes but not quit. To fail sometimes, and succeed sometimes, and eventually win the gold medal.

How long did that process take? How much experience? And how much reinforcement?

Faith comes by hearing, present tense, not having heard, past tense. How many times did a parent, a coach or a team-mate say those words of encouragement to Usain Bolt, “You can do this, you can do it!” And so he did.

The first thing I did after that conversation was to apologize to the Lord, to repent and ask forgiveness for my attitude, and to ask for his help in reinforcing my faith. What I asked him for is stubborn, determined, persistent, persevering, teeth-clenching, gutsy faith. I think that’s what he wants me to have. What he wants all his children to have.

I want to “Remember the donkey” today, and every day, as many days as it takes.