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!

Advertisements

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/

Do you know the way?

I was thinking about the word “way” the other day. No special reason, I can’t recall anything in particular that started that train of thought.

“Do you know the Way to San Jose” wasn’t playing in my head. Not even Jesus’s statement, “I am the way.” It was more like random abstract thinking.

What does the word “way” mean? I was thinking. How to do something? Like a way to cook collards so they don’t smell up the house? (Yes, there is one. Ask me.)

Or maybe a way of looking at something? Like through my trifocals when watching TV but not when reading a book. Or looking at something from somebody else’s point of view.

Then the Holy Spirit interrupted my thoughts. “Do you know the way from Florence to Columbia?”

“Sure,” I said. “There are lots of ways to get to Columbia from here.”

I began to think of a few. Turn west on Palmetto Street to I-95, then north to I-20, then west to Columbia. Or just continue west on West Palmetto, which is US Highway 76. Take a few side roads, not main highways necessarily. They’ll all get you there, eventually.

The Holy Spirit began to ask more questions. “Which way is the right way? What time of day? One unbroken trip, or pit stops along the way? Detours to browse through other towns? An overnight stay in Sumter, maybe, to visit Swan Lake? Or picnic at a historic Revolutionary War site near Camden?” Hmmm.

“What about going east into Florence first, to pick up items for the trip? Or how about go all the way through Columbia to visit Lexington first, then come back to Columbia? Which way is the right way?”

Well, that sure got me to thinking. Then he continued.

“What is the best day? The best time of day? Or should you go at night? What’s the best season of the year? Is any one of those better than any others?”

“Should you drive your own car?” he went on. “Or maybe rent one? Or ask someone else to take you? Should you go alone, or with a companion or two? Maybe go by bus? Or by train? Or by plane?” I was accumulating quite a few mental images of what had been a simple trip. “If enough others went along, you could form a caravan!” he added.

“On the other hand, perhaps you could ride a motorcycle, or a bicycle, or walk, actually. Of course you could run, or jog. You could even hitchhike. Couldn’t you? All those are ways to go from here to Columbia, aren’t they?”

Uh huh. Hmmm. Now I was really suspicious about that first question. I wondered just what way he was getting at.

“So, which way is the right way?” he asked again. I sensed a smile in that voice.

“It all depends,” I slowly admitted, “on the purpose of the trip.” He stopped speaking and let me mull over all that.

Follow me, Jesus said to his first disciples. Take up your cross and follow me, he told them later on. Follow me as I follow Christ, Paul said to his readers. But that was after the cross, wasn’t it… so where was Jesus when Paul wrote that?

Where is Jesus now? I asked myself. Where is he going now? How do I follow him, unless he’s going somewhere? But he is going somewhere.

He’s not standing still like a statue on a Brazilian mountain top, or an icon in a church building. He inhabits believers, and while he is seated in heavenly places in the spirit world, he is also standing when I’m standing, sitting when I’m sitting, and going when I’m going, wherever that is.

“You’re beginning to get it,” the Holy Spirit encouraged me.

Suppose that Jesus wants to go somewhere, somewhere specific, in this imaginary trip from Florence to Columbia, I asked myself. What is the right way, then, to get from this house in Florence, to wherever it is he wants to go in Columbia?

I understand a little better the puzzlement of Thomas when Jesus told him, “Where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:4)

Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going, how can we know the way?”

The disciples no doubt had the same puzzlement when Jesus felt he needed to go through Samaria to get to Galilee. (John 4:4) Now, no self-respecting Jew HAD to go through Samaria, they always went around it.

But Jesus knew there was only one way for him to go that day, because of the purpose of the trip. To rescue the Samaritan woman at the well, and her whole city.

Jesus told the puzzled disciples, “My food is to do the will of him that sent me… lift up your eyes, look on the fields; they are white already to harvest.” The whole city of Samaria, the whole area of Galilee, the whole world was ready to harvest! And it still is.

Believers still recite the Lord’s Prayer every week. “Thy will be done,” we say. If we really want to do his will, really want to carry out his wishes, we’ll listen to his voice. We’ll take him where he wants to go, the way he wants to get there.

There’s something a  bit fascinating about that word “way.”

————————————-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nbg8zdBVcPc
“Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” a 1968 song written for Dionne Warwick by Burt Bacharach (music) and Hal David (lyrics).

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/