Monday, February 21, 2011

The Call

The details are not so clear to me now, but the "feel" of the church when she was there with her children is as fresh to my mind as the moments just passed by. She was the sister to a gentleman who went to my childhood church. Unmarried, she had answered the call of God to leave home and family and travel to Japan to serve. She loved children and had many of them. None from her womb but each chosen by her heart.
From time to time, they would come to visit her brother and the members of our church. I suppose our church supported her, I certainly hope so. But a little girl doesn't pay attention to those sort of details. Rather, I was more focused on playing chase in the old graveyard as soon as the final amen was delivered (always being careful to not step on the graves). Still, the Lord held close to my heart the courage of this woman; the children she had rescued and He had saved by His grace.
Even a little girl chasing friends in the church yard carries something with her from the Lord --- and for reasons known only to Him, He stirred my little girl heart with the faces of the Japanese children that visited our church.
I loved to sing - still do. As a little girl I found it fun and entertaining to search for the page number in the old hymnal, competing with my friends to try and find the page first, and then to sing with great enthusiasm the words penned to those old faith-filled hymns. I was honing my reading skills and playfully learning the tones of the notes ----- but God, He was doing much more serious work in those days.

I sang "I surrender all, I surrender all, all to thee my blessed Savior I surrender all"...
We sang of the old rugged cross, the power in the blood, and victory in Jesus. We sang loud and long and it settled deep in the marrow of my bones.
I might not have heard a word the preacher spoke ---- but the songs -- oh the songs sat in my soul.

Twenty five years later --- after many mistakes, many mess ups -- I had become well acquainted with the value of the old rugged cross and what it meant to me personally. He died to pay the price for my sins --- I understood, and loved Him all the more.
About that same time --- God asked me, "Did you mean it little Donna?, Did you mean it when you sang saying, 'I Surrender All'?" It was about 10 years ago that God whispered to my heart and said,  "I'm calling you to something you are not familiar with, something unknown to you, and it will require that you meant the words you sang. Will you surrender all to me Donna?"
My outward response was "Yes, certainly." But both God and I knew, my insides rolled over --- there was a spiritual malignancy that had to be removed -- and so the work began.
I sought Him more than ever before. I listened more deeply, watched more closely, sang more intentionally, studied His Word because I needed it, not because someone said I was suppose to;  I was thirsty, He held the cup, I began to drink deeply.

That was the first calling --- "Come to me..."
Oh I had been "saved" when I was eleven years old, and that was the initial "come to me". But this was more of a deep sanctifying "come to me". At eleven, I understood and embraced His amazing gift to me. At 30 something, I understood the need to die to self and live for Christ.
John 3:30 - "He must increase, i must decrease."

And now, in my fourty-eighth year of breathing, the second call has come. On Feb. 3rd, while singing an old hymn, "Here I am Lord" the whispers became louder. Later that same day, while praying alone at a dear friends home, it was no longer a whisper --- the voice was clear, precise, speaking the language of the soul to my heart and my mind could no longer avoid or deny it. He said to me, "It is time Donna, it is time. I've prepared you, nurtured you, equipped you, enabled you ---- now is the time, I'm calling you out."
Oh I wrestled a bit --- for you see the accuser was working to halt it all. "But you'll miss..., But what about your children..., How could you leave your family..., But aren't there people right here that need help too..., You'll miss so much here..., Why would you dare..., Who do you think you are... - ... - ...
And so I took out my Bible, I read Isaiah, Psalms, my knees grew tired and so I laid prone on the floor with my Lord --- and asked for HIS WILL in my life. Nothing less, nothing else.
I surrendered ALL --- i surrendered what i would miss, what i held dear, what i thought, how i felt, what made sense to me, what seemed logical. I gave everything to Him. And the peace washed in as if a tidal wave of warm, soft water had overtaken the room. Peace - peace that passes understanding. The Redeemer redeemed me fully and the accuser was silenced. I was in a place I'd never been before as I sat in the room I had been in for hours.

The call was clear. I called my dear husband and shared all with him. There were many tears.
I assured him, that God had called me --- I knew God had called him years ago. But the leadership of our home, still rested securely in Steve's hands. I would follow as God guided us through him. I love God's plan in marriage - I love my husband - it is a blessing to be his wife. It is safe and right when Steve leads --- it's a mess if i try to. :)
There is much more that happened that day - Feb. 3rd. But in the end of it all ---- God called Steve and I to begin preparations to sell our home, and move to Kenya to serve Him full time there. And then God kissed us sweetly --- as our youngest son Pete asked to join us in Kenya upon his graduation from high school next year. What a gift.
There are many details to attend to --- much praying and planning to be done --- but the call has been made clear  --- and with it came
a release from all we have, and have held dear
an anticipation for what's ahead
eagerness to begin
humbleness at the magnitude
weakness in my knees being met by my Savior's strength
tears - many tears
deepened love - for my Redeemer - for He takes what is worthless and makes it something of value
a sense of knowing - He has a plan - that is better than anything I could ever imagine or hope for...
that in the end - it will all be as He designed it to be - even before my first breath.

I have surrendered all (and will continue to do so over and over again - it's a daily quest isn't it...)
There is Power in the precious blood of Jesus...
There is victory in our Lord...

Miss Loudermilk escorted the Holy Spirit's call into my little girl heart all those years ago, when she sat with her dozens of Japanese darlings in our tiny country church.
No one knew, no one saw, but always after they would leave, I would go and sit on the pews where they had sat -- and just be still. I was drawn to the children that lived far, far away.  I was drawn to them in ways that only God could understand.

I do not remember one word she ever said ---- I only remember the stirring of God.
And I will remember that as I minister to the precious children, widows, and hurting people of Kenya. It will not be my WORDS that matter so much to them, rather it will be the stirring of the Holy Spirit in our presence. All He asks me to do, is to be obedient, to go, to love, to surrender all --- HE WILL DO THE REST --- He will do the work. I'll just carry His toolbox.

Matthew 28:19 - "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Photo taken by Steve of me playing with children in Akatiman, Kenya (Turkana tribe found in northern Kenya near Lake Turkana, complete language barrier - but we could still play and interact so sweetly).

©2011 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Blessing

It's placed inside us while still in the womb. It can first be seen when we are children. Even when our vocabulary is limited to one or two words, we can clearly understanding when someone is "blessing" us. It could come as a gentle nod of approval or the sweet wink of an eye. We know when someone is behind us, we also know when they are not.
As the years pass by, the "blessing" comes in the form of words spoken.

It's a God given desire placed inside us to receive a blessing from those we love and care deeply for --- Jesus modeled it for us in Gethsemane, the Israelites waited for it in the wilderness, Moses wouldn't move without it even when his toes could feel the Jordan waters, and the one apostle that lost it took his own life as a result. God places at the center of our being a hole, a need, we want to be blessed. Ultimately we want approval and blessing from God Himself. We might not understand it, we might fight against it. We might spend years and years trying to fill it with other things, but after all is said and done, we're empty and dry in the end --- until... Christ enters in.

God can give us a physical example of Himself through others. He knew we would sometimes need to feel a "Savior with skin on" --- and so He gave us His Son. And since the coming of Christ, we can see glimpses of our God in the eyes and hands of others. Every child should be able to see a glimpse of their Heavenly Father through the eyes and hands of their earthly father. Unfortunately - things are not always as they should be -- that was messed up in the Garden of Eden. But for those who can see moments of the Master in their earthly Father, it should be noted, acknowledged, and deeply appreciated.
(For those who have not seen their Heavenly Father in the eyes and hands of their earthly father - God can and will make Himself known to you -- you are His prized treasure, regardless of your father's choices.)

In old testament days, and still today in some cultures, it was customary and quite necessary for a father to pass on to his children, a blessing. The children would wait until the given time for their father to "bless them". It was a respectful allegiance unspoken but known - the father held a position of authority due to his positioning in the home and years on the earth. The blessing was sought after, treasured, and not questioned.

Our present day culture does not view the "blessing of the father" as it was viewed in years gone by. But to me --- it still carries great value, God's favor, and a place of strengthening for the journey ahead.
It's a semblance in the physical realm of our need in the spiritual realm.
We want, seek, and need blessing from our Father.
We are touched when our father blesses us in the work of our Father.

Last week Steve and I went to talk with my parents about the next sequel in the book of our lives.
We went to share it with them, to answer their questions, to be sure they understood --- and ultimately we went to ask for their "blessing".
We knew we would do what God was guiding us to do --- in Jesus' Name. But the desire to have their heart supporting our call was utmost on our minds.

Isn't this a picture of our heart's desire to have God's blessing in our lives? To be in line with what HE has for us -- to share everything of our hearts with Him, to have questions answered, to understand and be understood, and to ultimately feel God's favor and blessing on us. I believe it is.

My father and mother gave their sweet blessing. It was a sacrificial giving on their part --- it was not something they would have chosen, not what they would have picked, not what will be most comfortable for them in the days ahead. But sacrificially and lovingly, they gave it.
They understand --- that the blessing of God can and will rest on them, as they give their blessing to God's call on their children.
They model for us in the physical what we look to in the spiritual.

What is the calling? What did they bless? ---- next week's blog will tell of it.

But first --- more importantly --- is the sharing of my grateful heart -- to be called --- and to be blessed.

If God gives you the opportunity to "bless" those in your life --- to encourage and strengthen them in the Ancient paths ---- don't miss the chance to be that physical representation of the spiritual picture our Lord wants us to have eyes to see. It's a beautiful, life-giving, warrior strengthening gift.

It's a gift much needed when standing on the "front line".

Genesis 12:2 - “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; ... you will be a blessing.
Genesis 49:28 - "All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him."
Deuteronomy 28:8 - "The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you."
Deuteronomy 33:1 - "This is the blessing that Moses the man of God pronounced on the Israelites before his death."
Psalm 21:3 - "You came to greet him with rich blessings and placed a crown of pure gold on his head." 
Galations 3:14 - "He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." 

Photo taken at Hilton Head Island, SC, Christmas trip 2010 - my dad, mom, me, and Pete.  

©2011 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe 

Monday, February 7, 2011

But while they were in prison --- the Lord was with them...

Riding in comfort, with a warm scarf around my neck, we enjoyed gentle conversation as we headed to the side of town where the jail is located. It was dark, the night was cold, the weather man warned of sleet and freezing rain.
From the time of my childhood I have been intrigued by Paul's writings in the book of Acts, His times in prison; the presence of God there with him. My heart had always been attentive to the scriptures, "I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." Matthew 25:36
These were words spoken by our Jesus, His guidance to us with a promise attached. Even as a child these words moved me. I was the little girl in Sunday School who sat silently and listened, and wondered, and hoped. (one of the few times I took that posture I can assure you) :)
Could our Jesus, the One who is righteous and holy and perfectly flawless, actually, truly be like this? A lover of the prisoner, the hungry, the cold and alone.

My dear friend had arranged for me to join her as she and a team of fellow warriors met at the jail to minister to fellow ladies. Women whose "bars" were very visible. Women who had made choices that brought them to a place of confinement. They had broken the rules of society and society required payment. And so we went to meet them, where they were.

Would I sense the presence of my Savior there?

We made our way through several locked doors and left our keys with the guard.

We sat and waited for the ladies to join us. It was, after all, their choice. They did not have to come and listen, and some perhaps did not. I never saw those who did not come, but I saw, really saw, the ones who did. They came dribbling in, which gave us a chance to greet them individually. I learned their names, and saw their eyes.

One of the ladies in our group began the Bible study time, making sure everyone had a Bible and was on the right page with her. She began to pour over scriptures moving from one Book to another, getting their hands in His Word. She asked that they read different scriptures, and I began to love them as the old school teacher in me could "hear" their readings. I wondered what happened in their world between their first grade days and these days behind bars. Something had happened in their world that had not happened in mine. I began to see them --- through His eyes.
And I could feel it --  oh how He loves them...

One lady looked at me often with heavy (even hard) eyes. She was carrying a weight inside her heart that had made her tired and weary. I could see it ---- through His eyes.
One lady tried repeatedly to answer questions asked in the discussion, with the hope she might possibly be right. I could sense, she wanted to say or do something "right". She needed to have confirmation that she could do something right. I could hear it ---  through His ears.
God's truths were being poured out on them and they were taking it in. But they also sat there in their jail attire wondering, when I'm out of here, will I be able to "live this"? They shared this fact with us. The fear hovered over them --- the reality that saying was easier that doing, that talking the talk was easier than walking the walk. And the fear showed in their wounded eyes. I could see it ---- through His eyes.

At the end of our time together, the group leader asked if I would like to lead us all in singing a song.
Oh my soul. How could she have known - I wanted to sing out to our Father the entire time we were sitting behind those bars. How could she have realized the gift it would be to me, to sing to my Father with these ladies.
For you see --- I know what it feels like to be behind bars. Bars that no one else can see, but confining, limiting, restraining bars all the same. Bars of fear, rejection, insecurity, and self hatred. Bars that have those huge gaps between them, gaps that allow you to see "out" and watch others thriving in the world around you --- but bars that hold you down and away and separate.
When God freed me from those invisible bars ---- I sang. I sang to Him, for Him, about Him, loving Him. It was then, that I was finally able to love others - truly love them, and be loved in return.
So to be allowed to sing within these bars, with these precious wounded sojourners, it was a gift from Him.

We sang "Amazing Grace".
But first I shared with them what the word GRACE means. I asked if they knew, and their puzzled, little girl eyes moved me to my core.
Oh dear God, to live a life not knowing the depth of your Grace.
Oh dear God give me words to open that door for them.
And so I said...
Grace comes only from God, it can begin with no other source.
It flows. At least it is suppose to.
Grace is God's response to all that is imperfect in us.
Grace is what God gives us because He loves us.
Grace is the opposite of what we do deserve.
We deserve death, punishment --- for our sins.
Grace is God's chosen gift to us - we are undeserving -- it reflects HIM not us.
Grace is sufficient for all our soul and heart needs.
Grace is a picture of God's riches at Christ's expense.
Christ on the cross for us, the picture of Grace.
Grace -- God pours it out on us again, and again, and again, and again.
Grace is like the air of Heaven poured into earthbound lungs.

"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me..."

Our voices rang out bouncing off the hard stone walls. And my knees felt weak. It was all so lovely. Souls singing to their Savior of His goodness to them. My soul wept.

In the hardest places, praises sung out to God, transform everything.

As we left ---- I knew my Abba was in that place.

"Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him..." Genesis 39:20-21a

Photo taken by Maggie

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Being Redone by the Redeemer

It's interesting how the movies can neatly pack into 120 minutes or less, the purpose, the reason, the "why" of the main characters life. Last night Steve, Mike, and I watched a wonderful movie called "The Spitfire Grill". It was filled with mystery and intrigue mixed with a gentle flow. No shoot'em up scenes or wild car rides, but rather it progressed at a steady pace and revealed the purpose of one young woman's existence.
I confess, that at the end of the movie, I was a bit envious.

She had not done anything huge in the eyes of the world ---- but she had changed the world in the place where she was.
If it had been a true story -- her name would have been unknown to the masses. But to the few who did know her, she left everything better than it was when she found it.
What a beautiful legacy.
A beautiful legacy that came from a hard life.
I felt God in the movie --- for only He can bring beauty from ashes.

It is exhausting to live in this world according to the "world's unwritten rules". Then God reminds me, I am not of this world. That in this world we will have trouble. This is not our home. We do not belong here, we are simply passing through. I'm thankful for those reminders.

In 120 minutes the movies can reveal the purpose of someone's existence. For us, it takes a lifetime. So in that "lifetime" of journeying what are the things that really, really, really matter most?
Is it our income?
Is it our fashionable home?
Is it our style and class and impressive appearance?
So many of us would quickly say --- NO --- it's none of these things.

But then why is it so many still clamor for them. Do you see it too? The words we speak and the living out of those words do not always match up. But it can be hard to recognize that inconsistency. It can be hard to see. It's not an pleasant sight at all.

God tells us in His Word --- what matters most, is that we love Him and love others.

The girl in the movie last night loved those around her - more by her actions than by her actual words. And she was so very beautiful because of it.
Eyes were soft and gentle, hands were steady at work, words came slow and were measured, and she could carry all her possessions in one backpack.
She was beautiful.

Can you tell I'm being re-sized, re-fitted, re-done ---- by the Redeemer?
And He is gently saying to me --- "measure it all up according to My Word donna ---- then move forward with the parts that I tell you mean the most to me".

Sounds simple enough right?
It's not.
But, it is a cleansing that goes soul deep.
I wonder why -- what's ahead.
Well, at least maybe I'll be fit and lean for the journey. In Jesus' Name.
I'm not thinking I'll be changing the world ---- but I pray I can leave the world around me better than it would have been without me. Wouldn't that be sweet...

... "to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61:3

(photo taken by Steve in Kenya, of Dori laughing with me)