Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Moving Forward

We've had a fair share of mist laden days, unusual for this part of the country.  It reminds me of how blurry and obstructed the way can be on the assault into enemy territory, seeking to advance the Kingdom of God.

The life purpose of John the Baptist was to "prepare the way for the LORD's coming.  Clear the road for Him."  (Matt. 3:3)  If Jesus needed a forerunner to go ahead of Him, how much more do we need to 'prepare the way' for souls brought into His kingdom. 

So when Matthew 3:2 says to "repent", and "turn to God, for the kingdom of Heaven is near," I cannot help but think of souls waiting to be saved, ripe for harvest, here, in our own neighborhoods.  The Kingdom of Heaven is near, even at our fingertips, but the fog of our own lives can cause us to miss or even hinder it.  I don't want to be distracted from my true purpose. . . telling others of Jesus.

My heart has a burning desire to tell children of Jesus.  Yet in that desire we can so easily rely on a program, the curriculum, or our own strengths.  I'm being made aware more and more that we are engaged in a battle.  We must fight!  And to prepare the way for God's Spirit to work in hearts, we must be in prayer and know our Scriptures.  How can we wage war without our weapons?

"They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony."  Rev.12:11

 I pray for the soil to be worked up and softened...the soil of hearts prepared.  If that means a restless heart or a heart at the end of itself, this is a good thing.  Those hard clods are getting sliced through into tiny particles so that the seed of the Word will fall on tender ground. 

How can He come when we make no effort to clear the road for Him?

I know, He is not limited by our preparation, but at the same time, it seems that sometimes our efforts are spent on the wrong thing, anything and everything but prayer.  One plants, another waters, but God produces life by His Spirit.  If it is from God, why do we act like it is from us?  Yet, is there a harvest waiting . . . rotting away, because we are not preparing the way for the Lord?

A song we sang last Sunday strengthened my heart, and continues to weave its message through me. 

King of heaven rise up
Who can stand against us
You are strong to save
In Your mighty name
King of Heaven come. 

We are children of Your mercy
Rescued for Your glory
We cry, 'Jesus, set our hearts towards You'
That every eye would see You lifted high. 
(by Paul Baloche)

I long for God's kingdom to come.  We have a youth retreat coming up in less than two weeks.  Would you pray for us, that the way would be prepared for God's Word to sink deep? 

And every Tues., Wed., and Thurs. afternoon, all across this valley, various individuals are teaching the Bible in the public schools.  Would you pray with me, that the road would be clear for God's Spirit to work mightily among us?  We need your prayers.  Together we are a living organism, a mighty army . . . the church of God.  Pray for the Word to take root, to really grab hold, to grow strong.

Standing together, patient in prayer.

Thank you! 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Storm Updrafts

I'm certain there are redeeming qualities in a turkey.  After all, it is their breed that surrenders their lives each Thanksgiving.  And our founding fathers came near electing it as our national bird.

But my sights are on the eagle.

As I looked on the week last Sunday, I was overwhelmed by all that must be accomplished.  And it did not even include the dailies of laundry, meals, and school.  As the heaviness began to engulf me, the usual thought came to me.  Just get through the week, one day at a time, plow your way through it. 

For our upcoming youth retreat, I've been studying the workings of the eagle.  And God prompted my heart to shout, "No!  I will not 'just get through the week'!  This is not the life I am called to!  I will soar!"  

To receive the updrafts which take it to higher altitudes, the eagle requires the storm.  There it glides with ease in the heavens.  That is how I wanted to go through my week, not groveling on the ground like a turkey, but soaring the heights near the presence of God. 

The trials of this week did not go away.  I still had to face them, including a day of intense physical pain, I suspect the result of stress, forcing me to bed, losing precious time.  Yet, as I've spent the early mornings in the Word, God has met me there.  I've lingered, oblivious to the time and pressing responsibilities.  My heart is nearly bursting with God's fullness.  Words jump off the pages as I've caught a few of those updrafts into sweet communion with God.  And the confidence He brings to my heart is such a great comfort.  This is why I can say with such boldness, the Lord is truly my helper!  (Heb. 13:6)

The pace picks up for the weekend and I must give more of myself.  But I know God is faithful.  In these high places I lack the shade of trees planted by still waters.  The sun's heat can be intense, yet here I am shadowed by the presence of God--his wings spread over me.

Photo by Rebekah Nadel
I know you can relate to this tempo of our days, which seems more like a mad sprint than a walk.  The winter is drab and worn out, but my heart doesn't have to be.  Because "those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  (Isa. 40:31)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Never Runs Dry

Have you ever known, without a doubt, that God was tugging on your heart?  This last week has been that way for me, although not always with pleasantries.   As I've sought to carry out the commitments I've made to people and my responsibility to the Lord, I've come up short, not of desire or effort, but of ability.   God continues to keep me dependent on Him, especially in the areas where I think I am strong.
I taught a class this week about a widow, in the time of Elisha, and her oil filled jars. (2 Kings 4:1-7) I don't think the message was so much for the kids as it was God seeking to reveal Himself to me in very practical ways.  Over and over I was brought to the end of my strength, my resources, until I was desperate for God's sufficiency.

I was challenged with areas I do not normally struggle.  My daughter needed assistance with a song she'd been assigned for piano lessons.  We fought it together, at last conquering, but I was left feeling helpless.  I was asked to play a flute piece for praise team which had me stumped.  I thought, no problem, I will just go home and practice. I studied, listened, and fought, but still couldn't get it.  Helpless.  I've been preparing lessons for our upcoming youth retreat, but felt behind and inadequate.  Helpless.  Even as I sought to prepare the story of Elisha and the widow, I wrote out my notes three times and finally ended up with a few unsatisfactory index cards.  Why couldn't I get it?  Helpless.

One night I struggled hard with depression, a weighing down with ugly thoughts of comparisons and ungratefulness.  I knew it was wrong but the lies bombarded and I joined with the accuser in crushing my spirit.  It finally culminated the next morning as I walked my daughter to school and we got in a squabble.  What a rotten way to send her off!  Even my parenting was pathetic.  On my way back home, all the helplessness and heaviness of the last few days gushed out in frustrated angry tears.

It was clear to me.  I could not do life without God's enabling.  All my self-sufficiency just whooshed down the drain.  I needed God.  No, I was desperate for Him.  Yet, he "knows what I need before I even ask it of Him"  (Matt. 6:8)  And like the widow's oil, God sustains for "[His] love never fails, [never runs dry], never runs out on me.  And on and on and on and on it goes, for He overwhelms and satisfies my soul..."  (lyrics by Bethel)  The song was on the radio as I drove home from teaching that afternoon.  I cranked it loud and sang my heart out.
As many jars as that woman could find, whatever she brought, God filled.  The wrestling of this week produced empty hands, void of abilities I thought I had, things I assumed I was capable of, and God has shown Himself to be more than enough.  (The flute piece mentioned above finally came to me the next day, after total depletion of myself, letting loose of my tight grip, surrendering it to God.)

The struggle which brings us to the end of ourselves, often precedes a spiritual breakthrough.  Pride must first be crushed so that we know it is truly a work of God and not our own.  I will boast in the LORD my God, none other.  Though I fairly botched the lesson, some children placed their faith in Jesus that afternoon.  I cannot help but wonder if this is why the fight over the past week was so prevalent, so intense.  Or perhaps it was resistance by the evil one to abort God's birthing of his children.  Defeat the messenger and hack the message.   Yet, God is big enough to take even our feeble offering and make it effective.

Through it all I'm left with this stretching.  The offering never comes easily, but I know God's purpose will be accomplished through it.  He is faithful.  My heart is filled with praise for the oil that never runs dry, this life giving Spirit.

Spirit of the Living God, breathe your life in me.

p.s.  Did I mention that when I came home from teaching I learned that a very large grant had been placed in my son's account, quietly, unexpected, and from an unusual source?  That news was oil to my soul, oil extended not only to the widow, but also to her sons.  Wow!  Isn't God amazing?  

Sunday, January 13, 2013


I am ecstatic, like a calf let out to pasture.  An opportunity has come and I've taken it.  I forgot how much I love teaching children the Bible.  This is my passion.  I've taken a much needed rest from children's ministry, but lately I've sensed an urgency to actively share God's salvation. 

A long time ago a man and his wife were brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ through the influence of my Dad.  This man once told me that he thought I had the gift of evangelism.  If I would go, he would help to send me.  It was not a random statement.  As I spent a summer teaching children, he was amazed at their response.  Yet, we all know it is not the messenger, but rather the Spirit of God who turns hearts towards Him.  That said, if we, the messengers, never present the Word, how then will they hear?  

The next summer I was scheduled to go to the inner city of Chicago, but the man mentioned above was killed in a logging accident.  My brother and local church picked up the financial slack which he had promised and I still went.  I am forever grateful because it was in those two summers that I realized my niche in teaching children.  

Each follower of Christ has been given a spiritual gift, yet at times it seems so hard to discern.  I'm not convinced my gift is evangelism, I don't really know what it is, but I don't think it matters so much that I know.  All He asks is that I be faithful to obey.  Yet, when we experience great joy in serving Him, I believe we are very near our spiritual gift.  

However, God wants us dependent on Him and when I become too confident in my abilities, that is when I fall.  I never dreamed I would be mentoring high school girls.  It is an area where God keeps me humble and on my knees.  Likewise, the whole world of writing has me clinging to Him like never before.  God gives us windows of opportunity and often leads us into these areas to broaden His influence through us or to build our character.   But teaching children about God, oh my, it does put spring in my step. 

I just finished reading a book about a soldier who was martyred for his faith in the Soviet army.  (Vanya by Myrna Grant)  I am currently reading about some tribes in New Guinea who lived in constant fear of sacred grounds and evil spirits.  (Lords of the Earth by Don Richardson)  When I think of those living in darkness, even next door to me, my heart aches.  And I'm wondering, why am I so concerned about my plans for the weekend, if my house is clean and organized, or how many calories my food has?  Why am I disappointed that the Broncos lost and that the weather is cold so I can't go for my run?  If the Lord returned today would He find me about His business?

I'm not saying we are to ignore personal disciplines or that we cannot enjoy the simple pleasures of a football game.  In fact, I spent a good part of the year painting the outside of my house.  But I'm just wondering if all this stuff we do really matters as much as we place our emphasis on it.

If persecution were to sweep our country, what would be our highest priority?  Furthermore, if missionaries and martyrs strive to get the gospel to the remotest parts of the earth, suffering great atrocities and overcoming great obstacles, why would I not take the opportunity to give the gospel when it is easy . . . when I'm being invited to enter our public schools to do so? 

This is my spiritual worship, the giving of myself for the kingdom of God.  Yes, there are times, even with teaching children, that I get discouraged and bogged down.  The time in preparation, the discipline to study, to write, to teach does take great effort, but if even one person will put their faith in Christ, it is so worth it.  And I would venture to say that it is time well spent even if no one responds, because all God asks is that I be faithful to obey.  The response is up to Him.  Plus, the process draws me closer to God.  It is a win win deal.

I once heard someone say that as Christians we are in the most exciting mission on the planet.  So true.  I would sum it up in one word.  Sweet!  What a privilege to share in the delivery of God's most precious gift. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


It was the worst of mornings to oversleep.  We had combined a youth event, a family visit, a birthday party, and a sending of my daughter back to college, all in one trip.  And I had overslept, therefore missing my alone time with God.  The morning was a flurry of packing, loading, squishing, and checking off of lists.  But at last we were rolling down the road. 

The van was full of busy teenagers, and both my youngest daughter and I were scrunched with the luggage in the back corner.  After some 60 miles of the 'name that animal' guessing game, I pulled out my Bible and notebook to have my long awaited "quiet" time with God.  The speakers were right behind us, pouring out music while the teenagers were jabbering full throttle.  As we rounded certain curves, the luggage would slide over onto us and I would have to push it back to its place.  All that to say my "quiet" time was not exactly quiet or free of distractions.   

Yet, God is faithful and always shows up in the unexpected.  It may seem the worst of times to us, but is just the right time.  I was reminded of Mary, the mother of Jesus, traveling to Bethlehem at the worst of times.  Conditions were far from perfect, but it was the fullness of time and God showed up.  I'm so glad I didn't wait for ideal surroundings to open the Scriptures, because I may have missed the glorious message He had waiting for me there.

As I read from Zechariah 8, the words washed over me in great encouragement.  There the context is referring to Jerusalem after her time of captivity in Babylon.  I had just posted that morning about my year of drought and now heard God speaking to me.  He would not deal with me as he had in the past.  Instead, "the seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew." (Zech. 8:11-12) Wow!  How I long for heaven's dew!  I may not have seen any results over the last year, but the seed is in the ground and it will grow.  God is working and at just the right time He will bring it to light.  

The chapter goes on to say that "[God] will save you, and you will be a blessing.  Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong." (Zech. 8:13)  Just as the returned exiles were to be strong and finish the task of building the temple, so I need to finish what God has asked of me.   I need not be afraid because "God is with me."  (Zech. 8:23)

Sometimes we feel so alone, but when we least expect it, God comes to our aid, reminding us that He is still there.  God's comfort to my heart through His Word was my first surprise.  But He had yet another surprise waiting for me.

My daughter was to arrive in Ohio at midnight but then had a nine hour wait before the first shuttle could take her to the school.  I was concerned about her spending the entire night alone in an airport.  We believe in the power of prayer and were okay with it.  But secretly, I wasn't very comfortable with the idea.

Right before she got on the plane to leave Denver, we received a text.  Her friend had been able to borrow a car to come pick her up as soon as she arrived in Ohio.  There would be no wait through the night at the airport.  Surprise number two.  God was looking out for her and for us.  He didn't have to provide the ride, but He did, at just the right time.

If we seek Him, we find Him.  God is all around us and entwined in the circumstances of our lives.  We can miss Him if we are not looking, but He is there, none the less.  Praise be to our faithful God!  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Renewed Hope

I love the desert.  Something about it pulls wildly on my heart.  It constantly reminds me that life can be borne in the harshest of environments, and gives me hope through the wilderness seasons of my life.  This last year, 2012, could be summed up for me in one word.  Barren.  Everything I touched seemed to come up empty of fruitfulness.

My dream to write some Bible studies for high school girls has virtually gone dormant. . . until recently.  At the beginning, I took some steps of faith in pursuit of obedience to God's call.  One of those steps was to start this blog, taking great risk at being vulnerable.  Another was to put out a fair chunk of money towards an editor.  I also gave up a teaching ministry to young children, which I dearly loved, in order to devote more time to writing.  Yet, through it all, I've learned that I don't really enjoy writing and that it entails much more than I anticipated.  I don't have any ambitions to write a book, to be an author, or even to blog.  I just wanted a tool to teach high school girls the Bible. 

But last Sunday I believe God gave me the confirmation I was looking for to continue.  Ezekiel, a prophet of God, is told to do something really senseless; prophecy over a battlefield of dried out bones baked in the sun.  Twice he is asked to simply obey God.  It seems pointless, futile, even creepy, something from a Halloween freak show.  Against all common sense, Ezekiel simply obeys.   At the breath of God, flesh and tendons are formed on the bones and they come to life.  (Ezekiel 37:4-10)

I've been feeling like all my efforts at writing have been a waste and that maybe I didn't hear God's voice on it at all.  Doubts have been swirling hard and fast in my mind.  Maybe I've been chasing my own ambitions rather than God's call.  All I have to show for several year's worth of work are skeletons of half finished projects.  I have ambitious ideas but fleshing them out has been a challenge, to say the least.  

Oh how I need the breath of God!  But along with that my obedience is crucial.  He can put flesh and muscle on these dry bones.  He can cause the words to flow.  I must simply obey and leave the breath up to Him. 

I've procrastinated because, well, its hard work and takes a good amount of personal discipline.  I've been distracted, even rather cleaning toilets or ironing shirts than writing.  I need to obey but am also learning that God may not have guided me to writing for the sake of the writing, but rather as a tool to work on my character.  He is sanding off some really sharp edges like never before . . . edges I didn't even know I had.

Bones live.
Deserts bloom.

God's Word does not return empty,
                  but accomplishes what He desires . . .  not necessarily what I desire. (Isa. 55:10-11)
It achieves His purpose which may not have been my purpose.  I don't know.  I only seek to obey.  Such a little word for a great big work.

Isaiah 55 goes on to say that "you will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands."  God can make the barren fruitful.  He promises that if we abide in Him we will bear fruit. (John 15:5)  It is a given.  I don't have to try so hard, it will come about as I abide, which entails obedience.

Can these bones live?  Yes, for "instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of the briars the myrtle will grow."  (Isa. 55:13)

And all this, "for the LORD'S renown..."  (Isa. 55:13)
For the glory of God.