When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail…

hammeringnailThe first time I heard God speak to me, I was 6 years old. I was sitting in my first grade class, admiring the teacher. I thought she was really pretty, really smart, and I liked her a lot. Suddenly that voice said to me, One day you will be a teacher.

I didn’t know that other people didn’t hear God speak to them like that, I didn’t think it was unusual or strange at all. It wasn’t a common occurrence for me, though. Just that one statement was all he said for a long, long time.

As the years went by God occasionally said other things to me, like Don’t go there, or You should read this. Stuff like that. Just once in a while, nothing spectacular, no big deal. But I tried to pay attention, because I figured God knew what was going on a lot better than I did.

See, all during those years my family attended church, one that stressed the importance of studying the Bible. I admired my Sunday School teacher the same way I had admired my grammar school teacher. I liked her, and because she said knowing the scripture was important, I read and I studied. It was interesting, some of it actually fascinating, and because I enjoyed history of all kinds I enjoyed the Bible too. I just didn’t consider that it might be more than a history book and a rule book.

I wasn’t even born again in those days, at least as I understood that to mean. I had never asked Jesus to come save me, to be my Lord. I just knew that I knew that I knew — Jesus was God. Didn’t everybody know that? I suspect someone was praying for me, because God knew me. He was with me long before I ever knew him.

Then, as the teenage years rolled around, things I knew I should do, I didn’t do. And vice versa. I DID go there, where I shouldn’t go. I started doing things because I wanted to, whether my parents or my Sunday School teacher or the preacher thought they were okay or not. And believe me, I instinctively knew what they would think about some of it. NO-NO’s.

I had actually told God one day that yes, I understood how to be saved, and yes, I wanted to be saved some day, and okay, I’ll accept Jesus as my “saver.” Not really serious about it, I just said it and promptly forgot it. Gradually his voice stopped speaking to me, but by then I didn’t even notice.

Thinking I could run my life just fine all by myself, I dropped out of college and married a man my family didn’t approve of. A man who turned out to be exactly the kind of person they had warned me he was. We had two children, and bit by bit our marriage fell apart.

At age 29 when I finally acknowledged that doing my own thing my own way wasn’t working out too well, I seriously asked Jesus to save me and to manage my life. In other words, to be my Lord.

What happened next was spectacularly sudden, and supernatural.* Everything changed in a flash, and I knew that the Bible was actually, literally true. Not just a history book, but a living Word, filled with the words of God addressed to me personally. Wow! His voice returned, full of laughter and life! I was so glad, so very glad.

Well, before you know it, I was a teacher. I was teaching Sunday School, and a few years later teaching Bible college classes. One day it dawned on me – God’s statement to that 6 year old girl was the literal truth. One day I would be a teacher, and that day is today.

And I have recognized and come to accept that “When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Even when you’re just 6 years old. Some folks know what that means…

Looking back I have realized that throughout my life, everything I’ve ever learned, I have thought of it as a teacher would, in terms of how to tell it to somebody else. How to explain it in ways they could understand, whether it was to my own children, friends, coworkers, stranger, whoever.

Whether meditating, speaking, writing, even emailing, my point of view has always been as a teacher. My focus has always been, How can I help somebody else understand this? Math? English? History? Science? Current events? Politics? Those certainly, but most importantly, Jesus. Father God. Holy Spirit.

It’s been a while since I was 29. I’m still reading, still studying, still finding the Bible interesting and fascinating, but one thing is for sure — it’s way better with the author right there with you. The extraordinary Teacher, Holy Spirit, Explainer-in-Chief, who always puts how best to share this with other people uppermost in our study sessions.

* Also see https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/all-things-became-new/

What are you like, God?

eyesofthelordWhat are you like, God? I asked him that again this morning. I’ve asked it a lot over the years, and his answers are always instructive. Interesting. Fascinating. Enlightening.

And so I expected something along those lines today…

“Snoopy,” he said.

No, I thought – I’m snoopy, I must have heard that wrong. He corrected my thought immediately.

Yes, I am, he said. I am snoopy. Curious. Not to find fault, criticize, condemn or gossip, not to prove myself “holier than thou.”

But to search out and soothe areas of hurt, bruising, injury. Weakness.

Irritations? Aggravations? Annoyances? Soothe.

Resentments? Bitterness? Grief? Soothe.

Wounds? Cuts? Bruises? Soothe.

Soothe, and heal, and strengthen.

“The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is perfect towards him.” (II Chronicles 16:9 KJV)

True? True.

And for my children, the eyes of the Lord run to and fro inward throughout the whole person, to show myself strong on behalf of that man or woman. On your behalf! To show myself a strong healer, comforter, soother.

I’m so glad! Yes, he is snoopy and I’m so very glad. I need that!

Scarred no more

Like many people my age, I have several scars on my body. One large one across my chest is from breast cancer surgery a few years ago. There’s a small one on my upper arm and another small one on my face, both from skin cancer surgery some years before that.

One scar is a faded half-circle from an accident with a kitchen knife as a child – I was trying to slice myself a hunk of cheese and sliced my finger in the process. Another almost forgotten scar is a tiny circular hole on my neck from a BB gun shot as an even younger child, when a childhood pal’s carefully aimed shot bounced off something and hit me instead.

It missed anything vital, thankfully, but it bled like crazy. My playmate ran one way and I ran the other, and we both tried to keep my grandmother and his mom from finding out about it.

This post is about scars, a dream, and a loving God.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Last night I had an interesting dream. In a room somewhere I was standing talking to two men. I had just prayed for both of them to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which they did. Then I heard a voice say, “Now you pray in tongues,” and so I began to do just that. The prayer was directed at just one of those two men.

As I prayed, words began to flow that I knew weren’t my usual prayer language. There was an authority, a sense of commanding something, not just asking for something.

I saw a v-shaped area of the man’s neck and upper chest, scarred from multiple small slashes. My words changed to English as the Lord began to speak to him.

“You have been cut over, and over, and over. You have been attacked and hurt, injured and damaged again and again with small slices and slashes. Now a thick scar has grown over that area, not hiding the injuries, just covering them. The scar doesn’t prevent more attacks, they still come and the scar grows heavier,” he said.

“Today the scar is being healed, soothed, erased and removed. The damage is being reversed.”

I watched in the spirit as the Lord’s hand gently moved over the area, and with each pass of the hand another layer of the scar disappeared. In a few moments the skin was clear, clean, blemish-free and healthy. And supernatural strength was replacing weakness in him, not just on the surface of his body, but deep in his soul and spirit.

At that point I woke up and knew the dream wasn’t just a dream. It was prophetic. I began to intercede and ask the Lord to perform that word.

Somewhere there is someone who is scarred from multiple attacks of the enemy. His (or her) mind, heart, and body have been injured. A protective scar has developed to hide the damage, but the Lord sees it.

And the Lord wants to fill that person with the Holy Spirit and with God’s own creative power, to make them completely whole, healthy and strong in spirit, soul and body.

Amen.

Holy Spirit, Trail Guide

TrailGuideWho are you, Lord? I asked again recently, recalling other times I’d asked him that.

Trail guide, he answered. The Holy Spirit is your trail guide for the journey you’re taking.

Over the next few days, I thought about that. Now and then I asked him why he used that particular title – I don’t find it in the Bible anywhere, I said. At least, not in those words.

Here’s how our back-and-forth conversation and my meditations went, more or less.

About the trail…

A trail is not a paved road. It doesn’t lead through cities or towns. If you’re taking a trail, it’s because you’re not going through civilized country. It may meander, lead uphill sometimes and downhill sometimes.

A trail is for travel. It makes traveling easier through woods or wilderness. It doesn’t destroy the woods or wilderness, only disturbing them a little. More than a rough path and less than a dirt road, a trail is created by the movement of shod feet, assisted by pulling or cutting away brush that may hinder the going.

A trail is to get somewhere, from point A to point B. It has a purpose. It leads to a definite destination. It may not be the shortest way, but with the trail guide it is the surest way.

About the guide…

He has much experience. He is not an amateur. This work is his lifelong employment. He is well able to teach and train believers to prepare, to travel, and to help others along the way.

The trail guide knows the terrain. He knows the starting and ending points, the length of the trail and the time the journey will take. He is knowledgeable of the seasons, the surroundings, the flora and fauna, and what other travelers you may encounter.

The trail guide applies both facts and wisdom. He plans and prepares ahead of time, gathering appropriate clothing, weapons, tools and supplies. He doesn’t take unnecessary gear. He takes the essentials and knows how to make use of them.

He prepares for unforeseen circumstances with well-designed contingency plans. He is able to protect travelers from sickness or injury, warn against danger, fight off predators, and call for reinforcements if needed. He knows when and where to break the journey with times of rest and replenishment for body, soul and spirit.

After considering all that for a while, I asked another question.

How is the Holy Spirit a trail guide? Normal life is not lived in the wild. Normal people have jobs, routines, families, interests and habit patterns. They live in buildings, drive on paved streets and highways – at least here in America.

You’re only looking at the natural world, the Lord said. Your spirit lives in the supernatural. If you could see with your physical eyes what happens in the spiritual realm, it would make more sense to you. Try looking at the world from my vantage point.

Okay, I will try to do that, I answered. And I have been.

Of course the Holy Spirit is much more than the trail guide, I added to myself. I was thinking of Comforter, teacher, empowerer, the one who reminds us of what Jesus said, and who tells us of things to come. I recalled the scriptures in Genesis where the Holy Spirit was involved in creation of the world.

Yes, the Lord answered my unasked question, but everything he is to you can be wrapped up in this descriptive title – Trail Guide. Think some more about that.

And so I am thinking about it. And about just what sort of trail we’re traveling on these days.

As I meditated on all he described, I recalled how the Holy Spirit guided the apostle Paul in his life. Not just in his missionary work, but in every aspect of his life… the where and when of his birth, his family, Jewish and Roman culture, education as a Pharisee of the Pharisees. His zeal as a persecutor of the church.

The where and when of his encounter with Jesus.

His years of seeming inactivity where zeal had to be refocused, patience instilled and polished. Then his assignment as a church member, evangelist, missionary, pastor. Prisoner.

Not to mention his many travels.

Paul wanted to go places, see people, do things for Jesus. He planned out his own reasonable, logical itinerary. Sometimes his plans weren’t quite right – the Holy Spirit had his own itinerary, his own agenda. He led him to other places, other people, other things to do.

Thinking of all that these last few days, trail guide does seem an appropriate title.

See John 14:26, 16:13; Acts 16:6-10.

The train of his robe

TrainOfHisRobeIsPeopleJesus-teachingIf you’re a regular reader, you probably wonder if I’ve given up writing posts. No, but in recent weeks I’ve found myself spending more and more time interceding for people, reading and studying about prayer and intercession, as well as keeping in touch with folks here at home and around the world.

Here’s a new post about something that happened the other night…

As I was praying and thinking about various things last night (June 7, 2016), the scripture song “I saw the Lord, he was high and lifted up and his train filled the temple” kept running around in my mind. (Isaiah 6:1)

I thought about articles that I’d read (or written) about his train, i.e. the long trailing hem of his kingly robes, and the idea that it completely filled up the temple. Then the Lord quietly interrupted my thoughts as he is apt to do and said…

“Do you know what I consider my train?”

“What, I asked? Something other than your robe?” So he showed me.

I saw him dressed in ordinary clothes such as Jesus wore on the earth. He just looked sort of like a grandfather surrounded by happy, laughing grandchildren. Small kids were playing around his legs, running around him in circles and tugging on his clothes as he walked, taking careful steps. They were obviously headed somewhere. Outside to a garden, maybe?

Spread out on either side and behind him as far as the eye could see were people of all ages, all races. Young children were the nearest ones to him, but just outside their ranks were teens and pre-teens, young adults and mature adults, smiling, gesturing and chatting with each other as they all kept pace with him.

Strolling along he would reach out and touch first one and then another, pat someone’s head, hug a child close for a moment, shake a hand, always smiling, walking along in a casual but steady gait. Where were they all going? I couldn’t tell and he didn’t say. What he did say was,

“This is my train, really – my children.”

And I realized as I looked closer, there were generations going all the way back to Adam and Eve! While all were his spiritual children, many were the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren – descendants of others in this tremendous throng.

It was amazing.

After a few moments I asked, “So you don’t actually wear robes with a long train, like a king on earth wears for ceremonial events? Like what Isaiah saw?”

“For formal occasions,” he answered with a chuckle, “but not for every day – it’s hard to get down on the ground to play with the kids, wearing all that…”

And with a wave as if saying “Later,” they continued on their stroll, the happy crowd keeping up with his steps.

As I drifted off to sleep, my mind drifted back many years. I recalled summer days playing outdoors with my own father, grandfather or uncles, several of us cousins laughing and grabbing them around the ankles by their pants legs, trying to pull them down to our level. And they always let us. They always let us.

Snip, snip

pruningLast night as I was praying, meditating and trying to keep my attention in check, I was having a lot of trouble. Thoughts went here, there and everywhere except where I wanted them to go.

People, places, things, events, situations, issues all interrupted. Spiritual, physical, political – if it had been on the internet, on the television news, in the newspaper, in conversations with family and friends, emails, no matter where, they all crowded in. Sometimes in gangs! Like impish brats they demanded attention, sometimes loudly, sometimes sneakily. Psst!

Suddenly I realized what was happening. I recognized the work of the enemy and began to demand his distracting minions to get out of my presence. As I started praising the Lord and thanking him instead of being distracted by all that intrusive negative stuff, they left (whining as they went). It was almost funny.

That wasn’t the first time such a thing had happened when I prayed, of course. Daytime or night time, controlling my thoughts in prayer sometimes becomes a skirmish, even a battle. I’m usually quicker to recognize the enemy’s tactics.

When my focus was finally back to the conversation I’d been attempting to have with the Lord, he said to me plainly – with a bit of humor – “Snip, snip.”

I knew what that meant. John 15:1-2. “I am the true Vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit].” (Amplified Bible)

The Holy Spirit is doing some pruning. In me, in my local church, and in the body of Christ as a whole.

He’s shaking off debris, pulling away viny weeds, straightening out tangled branches, cutting off deadwood and snipping away unproductive tendrils.

At times we need to put off some things ourselves, although we may be a little slow in getting that done. Other times we need to let him prune off some things. It doesn’t always feel like fun, but it’s always necessary.

The “distractor in chief” didn’t want me to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice last night so he threw in lots of other subjects to misdirect my attention. He didn’t succeed, though. I’m coming to grips today with what is going on in the spirit world. Shaking. Rearranging. Pruning.

Who are you, Lord?

TimesAreChangingHolySpiritFireMarch 26, 2016

“The times, they are a-changing.” Odd day, today. Odd atmosphere. Odd time frame. Out of sync somehow. Out of order.

For several nights in a row I’ve had dreams to remember again, dreams with actual story lines and spiritual components. There I am, sharing a testimony with someone I don’t know, helping someone in need, or traveling somewhere I don’t recognize. Suddenly I’m in an unfamiliar scene, speaking to people, helping somehow.

There’s an urgency in these dreams, as if events are too quickly unfolding and time is growing short, too short!

It’s Saturday, according to the calendar. According to the television news and the daily morning newspaper, today is Saturday. But it doesn’t feel like Saturday. Just like yesterday didn’t feel like Friday, or any particular day. It just feels odd. Like waiting for the other shoe to fall, odd.

My conversations with the Lord lately have been mostly about Him. Who are you, Lord? I asked him a week or so ago. Others have asked that question through the ages, of course. I can understand their curiosity; I’ve always been curious myself. I’ve written down my own feelings and beliefs about Father God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit on many pages.

But this time I wasn’t studying for an article to write or a class to teach. I just wanted to know for me, myself, my own spirit and soul and mind. Who are you, Lord? Who ARE you? Tell me about You, yourself. How do you describe yourself?

Well, he’s never been hesitant to answer my questions before and he wasn’t this time. He has told me a lot over the days since then. Sometimes it’s hours long, these conversations, as patiently he pours out words, mental images, descriptions and explanations.

  • Protector. We went back to before I was born and from that time until today, he revealed to me things I never knew. Dangers avoided. Tragedy averted. Angels in many guises, many sizes, guarding and guiding. That extra nurse in the newborn nursery. That man you passed in the street while walking downtown… not a man really, he just looked like one.

That pretty lady in the dime store, that young boy on the bicycle, those ordinary looking people driving by in their family car. Angels, looking out for Father’s beloved children. Who knows who all those people are in the grocery store, the gas station, the mall? Some of them just aren’t people at all, and we never suspect.

  • Provider. Provider of material and spiritual things, blankets, hamburgers, books to read, shoes and socks and jeans and tee shirts, cars and gasoline. Roof. Sidewalk. Grass. Brainpower. Intellect. Fascination with new things. Emotional connections. Friends. Relatives. Jobs. Interests. Hobbies.

It’s not just employment and paychecks, it’s everything and anything, needs and desires, comprehension, realization and enlightening – mental acuity, talents, abilities, spiritual hungers and satisfactions. The list is so very long! People, places and things. Place to be born, place to grow up, place to work and play. Every stick of everything in every place, every room of every house I’ve ever lived in, and there have been a lot of those, from birth to now.

  • Teacher. Who was your first teacher? He asked me. I didn’t have to think too hard – mama of course, and daddy, grandmother Mimi, grandfather Da, even younger brother Harold. Many aunts and uncles, nursery workers at church, Sunday School teachers, kindergarten teachers, grammar school… their faces began to roll slowly through my mind, although some of them I hadn’t thought of in years.

This week, he asked, have there been teachers this week? Oh yes, but mostly online nowadays, I thought. Well, no, not the most important one: Holy Spirit is always teaching! Wonderful teacher, bringing to mind the Word, the scriptures. New insights, new understanding of his unchanging Word. Ever present, ever available.

  • Lover. I could feel the soft baby blanket wrapped around my infant self, feel the rocking chair gently moving. I could feel the hugs and hear my squeals of delight as daddy tossed my toddler self up into the air a little, feel the rush of air as someone patiently pushed the yard swing a bit higher. I could hear our competitive laughter as we played scrabble and Chinese checkers in the evenings, brother and me trying our best to out-do the experts – i.e. the grownups in the room.

I saw, really saw the behind-the-scenes sacrificial love of my parents, their authentic affection for each other and for us. I also saw the many mistakes I’d made, looking for love in all the wrong places… but then he showed me the more recent years, my wonderment of being cherished, understood and appreciated by his hand-picked marriage partner.

There was a day or so of “other stuff” kinds of prayers and answers, time to digest and meditate before I asked again.

Who are you, Lord? The atmosphere in my room seemed to sharpen as swift moving images of the past became images of the present and the future – near future perhaps.

  • Warrior.

Involved. Complex. Complicated. Detailed. Power. Weaponry. Tactics. Strategy. Stealth. Flexibility. Overt. Covert. Strength. Martial arts. Intelligence. Individuals and teams. Network. Deception. Commandos. Rangers. Seals. Ground troops. Air forces. Submarines. Navy. Marines. Listening. Undercover. Civilian and military. Paramilitary.

Inside every believer in every field of work, Holy Spirit is there. From news reporters and editors to theologians, entertainers to computer coders, hand-to-hand fighters to stealth pilots; from legislators to secretaries, school boys to “little old ladies,” from insurance agents to secret agents, manufacturers to assembly plant workers, industrial spies to MI5.

Members of national and international commissions, committees, think tanks, NATO, UN, EU, governments and militias, rebels and patriots, and everything else you can imagine on every continent, in every nation.

Anywhere there is a Christian, there is the Holy Spirit observing and working from the inside. Linking. Networking. Educating and training, instructing and directing. Filling in the gaps. There is no such thing as a closed nation to Holy Spirit. Whisperer; fire starter; warrior.

I may wait a bit before asking that question again.