Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Old brown shoes --- covered His feet

(If you have ever felt rejected and not wanted ---- this post is for you. i hope you know, or soon come to know, the way your Father sees you. You are beautiful and wanted ...)

There once was a little girl born to a family. She was the second daughter to rest in the arms of a mother who had hoped to present a son to her husband this second time around. But alas, the gift from God was another daughter.

Years have surely altered the words a bit, but still the impact of them nested in the little girl's soul. For sometime in her growing up days, it was shared with her that on the day of her birth, her mother uttered words of rejection, saying something like, "another daughter, well that's like having two pairs of brown shoes, who needs two pairs of brown shoes...". Words spoken by a disappointed mother who would still care for and grow the child --- but words revealing the desire to have something other than what God had sent.
(I'm reminded - that while this may sound so sad - and our hearts may be inclined to rise up in defense of the daughter and against the mother --- we must ask ourselves the question -- "have i ever received something from God that was not what i wanted?" "how did i respond?" -- so we won't cast a stone at the mother -- we will remember we have been very much like her perhaps. The words of the mother are NOT what matter most here. It's the response of the Father that we focus on -- He always brings beauty from ashes - as only He can.)

The little girl was a carefree child who had a way of feeling God's love over her; she felt Him in blue skies and kitten fur, in sweet grunting sounds that puppies make and the cuddled up closeness of her favorite dog. She felt God come to her in dreams and breezes, and she knew ---- He liked brown shoes.

As she grew, she came to understand, that in the swirl around the words spoken at her birth, God was at work, but so was the enemy of her God.

The enemy worked effectively to whisper to her heart, you're not special, you were not what was wanted, you'll never be, don't try.
But the Father came to her in quiet whispers of hope and assurances that He had good use for brown shoes.

As she grew into a woman ---- she came to realize, that Christ, God's Son, her Savior, ---- had surely worn a pair of brown sandals.

Old brown shoes had covered the feet of her Savior when He had walked among men. 

In God's hands,
the little girl,
knew the beauty of being
---- just another pair of old brown shoes.

For her Father knew the plans He had for her...

"I (John) baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." 
Matthew 3:11 (NIV)

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

Only HE can use old brown shoes in beautiful ways ...

And the little girl clung to the Father...

Photo taken in Kenya of Maggie, Zipporah, and me.
Zipporah has eleven siblings. Her mother passed away, she was then raised by her father and step mother.  Maggie carried shoes to her for several years. Students at Maggie's high school raised funds to pay for Zipporah's education to become a seamstress. She is a beautiful young woman, who now works as a seamstress in Kenya.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"to live a holy life" -- how?

Oh how i love God's Word --- but i didn't always feel that way.
I always respected it, revered it, knew it was Holy ---- but i didn't LOVE it as if it were life to me.

Having first experienced the King James Version, I tried as a child to process the deep meaning between the "thees" and "thous" --- and struggled. The Pastor would "translate" or my Sunday School teacher would bring it alive for me, but in truth, when i sat with my Bible in my little girl hands, it felt more Holy than real --- and i wanted the Jesus that cared enough to walk among us to be real to me, no language barrier allowed.
And so it began --- that as i walked for more and more days in this world ---- God grew the awareness of my intense NEED for His Word.
Hence, my love affair with many translations of the Holy Bible was born. In college I began seeking my God in my world. I began looking for more of Him in the space between sunrise and sunset; i wanted to see more of Him than what i was seeing around me. The emptiness in the facade of the lives being lived by most of the people around me --- became the pink elephant in the room. The pink elephant was not what i wanted, nor did i want to pretend life was right. I wanted life to truly be right (not just have that appearance) ---- i wanted what God said could come from His hand. Oh to ..."live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God." Colossians 1:10 
It became my heart's desire. And so reading God's Word became a necessity --- it would reveal and remove the hidden pink elephants and open up the windows to let His aroma come in.
Proof of the patience of our Father ---- the many years He's watched the slow progress.

During these years, cross referencing different Biblical translations has brought much fullness to the pursuit of growing in the knowledge of God.
Often times I've heard people refer to various translations of God's Word in demeaning ways. Implying that one translation is superior and another translation is only read by "ear tickling" believers and not true saints. While there are some translations that are theologically and spiritually questionable and not filled with the fullness of our Lord, there are many translations that will lavish His truths on us and escort the Holy Spirit into our realm of understanding. We would be wise to remember that unless we are willing to learn the original Greek and Hebrew to therefore accurately translate the genuine writings into English, every translation --- is just that --- a translation.
King James, NIV, Amplified, Message, Living Word, American Standard, Wycliff's, Young's, etc. each represents attempts to translate the original Greek and Hebrew to understandable modern day language. The most solid translations are those that were translated from the Greek and Hebrew --- the less reliable were translated from a previous translation.
I write of this, because it was a point of personal struggle for me --- for several years. So i began an odyssey of sorts with my Lord --- wanting to be sure i read what He wanted me to read -- and did not rely on opinions of others or cultural mindsets to dictate my journey. God whispered to my heart --- "read many, cross reference them, measure them up to each other --- you'll see clearly --- I will show you --- what is from me and what is from men. MY words will be multiplied to you and their words will be diminished. My words will come again and again in many translations, men's words will not stand up to the test." And oh, it has been true. I am so thankful.
Reading multiple translations --- can reveal truth more deeply.

When we are truly reliant on and focused on what comes to us from our Father, He enables us to recognize what is counterfeit, it doesn't taste right, it feels wrong going down. We want what comes from His hand ---- and no other.
When we hear of occults that have taken God's word and twisted it grotesquely to fit their teachings --- we must remember -- somewhere in the beginning -- the choice was made to follow what a man/woman was teaching, their opinion, their way. God's Word was left behind.
It is for this reason, we should not take in the "opinion of another" and nest there. Never let someone's opinion of what God's Word says override what it actually says.
In reality --- listening to someone's opinion about God's Word --- is simply receiving a "verbal translation" of God's Word. We must listen, PAUSE, and measure it up to the truth of God's Word. Never take it in and hold it in your lap --- just because they say it well or they're "really such a good person". These are never qualifiers for TRUTH. 
Do not sit long under a "teacher" who shares their opinion ----- as if that is the way to walk in. They may refer to God's word --- but their opinion is the point of their teaching. There in lies much danger.
Rather, nest yourself in God's Word -- and when a Godly teacher who also nests in God's Word is before you --- you will quickly recognize God's truths in their teaching. Learning can bloom safely there; "growth in the knowledge of God".

If you have never opened up your mind to cross referencing translations of God's Word, please consider doing so. Rather than reading a whole chapter one morning --- read 1 or 2 verses, in many translations. Nest on the verse(s). Roll it through your mind, pray over it, pray it, revisit it, listen with your soul to the deep truth it has for you, on that day, in your world. Meditate on God's Word - in this way. You may find yourself in a peaceful place, you become lovingly drawn to this place day after day. Nesting in God's Word, listening for His voice in your world.

Oh that as we read God's Word --- may we always find ourselves in the posture of listening for God and seeing His answers in the pages we turn. And in doing so, we will be able to discern, by God's guidance when the words we hear are HIS.

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 1 Thessalonians 4:7

A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Luke 7:37-38

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene.  2 Timothy 2: 15 - 17 (NIV)

Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.
But avoid all empty (vain, useless, idle) talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.
And their teaching [will devour; it] will eat its way like cancer or spread like gangrene.  
2 Timothy 2:15-17 (Amplified Bible)

Photo taken by my Steve

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Petals in my Hammock

Rest - Peace - Abiding - Retreat - Renewing - Be Still -------- and know...
It's what God is relentlessly laying before me.
"But Lord..." (i try and say) "there is so much to be done, things to be sold, details to attend to, meetings to plan, heart matters to deal with... (like leaving my mostly grown children who reflect the shape of my heart, and my favorite red bone hound dog who is love covered in fur)."
I love to make out lists and check off the accomplishments for the day.
It feels like the time was used more wisely when the list is completed and body is tired from the work accomplished.

But God ---- God is saying something VERY different to me these days.

"Be with Me...", "Listen for My voice...", "Rest IN Me...", "Stop 'doing' and start 'being'...",  "What I can accomplish in and through you is much greater if you sit with Me, than what you can accomplish if you do not..."  oh - I must say that one again ---

"What I can accomplish in and through you is much greater if you sit with Me, than what you can accomplish if you do not..."

These are the certain whispers in my soul these days.

And so i am watching, listening, wondering (not wandering) ---- and because of Yahweh, i am hearing, seeing, and understanding more.

A beautiful hammock garden rests in the corner of our backyard.
It use to just be an ugly power pole we mowed around each week. The power pole stands as a support pole with a guide wire to another much larger pole required by the power company on our road. So removal of the pole was never an option. More than 20 years ago, Steve's sweet mother, Mary, gave us a tiny Wisteria plant from her garden. She commented the Wisteria would love clinging to the pole and covering it with cascading purple blooms; she knew the old pole bothered me. We planted the beautiful, tiny bush beside the ugly pole.

Some years later, the Wisteria has now covered the pole in such a way, that it actually looks like a Wisteria tree. Steve and i built a small covered area beside the pole to hang our hammock and planted more plants, then added a fire ring and finished it off with an aviary for our doves. The lone power pole is now surrounded by beauty and has become a favorite "hang out" for our family on cool evenings.

God makes the doves coo and the flowers bloom, God adds the fireflies and the stars, God sits in on the conversations around the fire ring and sends the breeze to rock us in the hammock. And this past week, in our garden haven --- God spoke to me again about resting in Him.

He covered the hammock with flower petals ----- as if to say ----- "I'm serious ---- come, rest, be with me, I'll pour out my beauty as you abide with me".

In a romantic gesture of love, a husband or wife might sprinkle flower petals in a bath or on a bed --- and the recipient would feel so treasured and wanted.
Likewise, I did not miss the gesture of love from God -- as He covered our hammock with His invitation to rest in Him.

I've never been in this "place" before.
I've always worked --- whether there was a job to be done or not --- i've managed to WORK. Working with a purpose - working to accomplish something - working to feel worthwhile -- working to please someone else or even myself.
There have been seasons when I had to work --- there was much to be done.
But there have also been days when I worked because it was a habit --- or worked because I thought someone would be displeased with me if i did not. Then i began to realize this mindset of work had silently transferred over to my thoughts towards God. Silently thinking the more i did, the more pleased He would be with me.
God is silencing that deadly lie.
God blesses us to be able to work and enables us to bless others through our work.
But is our "work" what matters most to Him?

The power pole garden reminds me of my grandfather. He was a minister. Good health was not something he enjoyed in his later years, after multiple heart attacks and open heart surgery, he could more often than not, be found at home, quietly "being". He walked his prescribed miles each day, but was not able to be active in the hustle of life around him. For me --- Pop was a place of steady love and deep wisdom. He was like the hammock under the power pole. The power pole represents the ugliness of the heart disease he endured. The hammock garden is the result of how Pop chose to respond to the immovable object. Many times, even in my teen years, I would stop by my grandparents' home, and pour out my heart to him. I'd ask him deep theological questions and then ask him silly teenage struggle questions -- he listened and responded to both with great care. He spent much time with God, like petals in a hammock. He always had a response for me that would enable me to walk more closely with God. He never told me what to do - not once. He never tried to impose his opinion - not once. He never acted as if he had answers ---- but instead he always referred to the One who had the answers and would guide me to His ways. Pop was a living example of ----- "being" not "doing". For someone who was looking for impressive appearances, my Pop would have been passed by. But for someone looking for God's truths, my Pop was like a hammock filled with flower petals.

What do you believe matters most to God?

Is it "what" we do --- or "how" we do it?
Is it how "much" we do?
Is it how good or impressive it "looks"?
Does God measure the outward appearance of a matter?
Or does He measure the motives of the heart?

I use to believe accomplishing much would cause God to be more pleased with me. And so I worked like a honey bee on a spring day -- trying - hoping - striving.
As God prepares me for the days ahead ---- He is making Himself very clear.

He is speaking through the petals on my hammock.
He's reminding me of days on Pop's porch.
He is speaking through His Word.
He is a good, good Father.

"He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

"Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10 (Amplified) 

"Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
      loving look at me, your High God,

      above politics, above everything
."  Psalm 46:10 (The Message)

Photo taken by my Steve of our flower filled hammock compliments of God.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

God's Whispers Over Honey on my Biscuit

The honey came so slowly from it's little plastic container. The hot biscuit steamed, the melting butter teased me  --- my mouth watered. But the honey was in no hurry at all. Steve, my husband, laughed at my dilemma and commented on the reality of life we can see even in the slow but steady flow of honey. And I pondered it as I waited...
Waiting ---- when we are in God's hands --- so often the word w-a-i-t is like an umbrella covering us isn't it?
If we refuse to wait --- if the "umbrella" is removed because we will not hesitate and remain under it --- then "less" is ours (we get soaked from the rain) -- and the "more" that could have been is missed (a dry walk in the midst of a deluge).

I could have opted to quickly squeeze a packet of grape jelly on my wonderful, warm biscuit. After all, grape jelly is yummy as well. But Steve and I enjoyed hearing God in the lesson over our biscuits. The jelly would still taste good --- and it would certainly come more quickly. Golly - I could have already had two good bites in my mouth in the time it took for the golden honey to begin it's slow progress towards my biscuit. But then I would have been settling. The honey may be slow --- but without question, it is the healthier choice. It is fully natural -- the grape jelly is not. My body will respond in healthy ways to the honey. And while I might enjoy the grape jelly --- it would bring nothing healthy with it.
(I know - you laugh at me - choosing "healthy" honey over "unhealthy" jelly --- for my VERY unhealthy buttered biscuit --- I'm laughing at myself too.)

Still - even in the goofy, silliness of my world --- my good, good God speaks to me. Yes -- even --- over a biscuit.
And so --- to have the healthy, good honey --- to choose the "good part" --- to receive the best of the choices given  ----  I must w-a-i-t.

It's a beautiful thing the way God uses the time encapsulated in our waiting.

For, "He knows the plans He has for us... they will bring us hope... a future". Jeremiah 29:11

I've thought on this much of late --- and stuttered at trying to put it into words. But God has kindly reminded me, that He too waits --- but He never wastes the time while waiting.

God is at work in the "wait" --- working to prepare the way for our walk of faith, waiting to see if we will trust Him, obey Him, surrender to Him --- put our hand in His -- fully. He, Jehovah, waits to see, if we will again insist on our own way, or if we will give ourselves over to Him and wrap ourselves in His robe. He wonders --- "must it look the way you want it to, or this time, will you allow it to be the way I choose for you?"

God holds Himself back from coming to take us home ---- as He waits for the souls who have not yet come to know Him. He longs for them - His love is beautiful -- He waits.

To ponder on this -- causes me to love Him more deeply. For in the transforming work of becoming more like our Christ, our Father asks us only to do what He Himself is doing.

To remember this --- is to realize His holiness in the waiting.
Holiness is too easily lost in humanness. Therefore, we must choose to remember.
To choose to remove our focus from our frustration in the waiting - and instead put our focus on the Holiness of His waiting. John 3:30 To increase Him and decrease me -- by choice.

So may we wait for the golden honey's unhurried pace,
----wait for the transformational work,
----wait and prepare to receive what is being birthed in the waiting.
May we wait patiently --- in, on, and with the Lord.

"Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
   therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
   Blessed are all who wait for him"

Isaiah 30:18 (NIV)

"But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always."
Hosea 12:6

"But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me."
Micah 7:7

"For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed."
Romans 8:19

"And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised."
Hebrews 6:15

"...and since that time He waits for His enemies to be made his footstool."
Hebrews 10:13

Photo taken by Maggie