Tuesday, August 30, 2011

When Heaven's heartbeat reaches down...

i was 7 or 8 years old when i sat beside a white haired lady in our little country church who first taught me about "worship".
She was the same lady who just a few years later would be used by God to minister to me on the night i invited Christ into my heart.
Mrs. Edith knew something about the ways of God --- and she shared.

She sat with the hymnal open in her lap --- i copied her every move.
She sang out clear and loud, as if the trees outside needed to hear our song --- i did too.
She closed her eyes as she sang --- i did not (who can play copy-cat with closed eyes).

She opened her hands, turned them palm up and held them tenderly in front of her ---- i did too.
But in my playful mimicking i wondered what we were doing.

After church, i asked "why" --- and while i do not remember verbatim all that she shared, i remember her message to me.

She said she closed her eyes so she would not see what was in front of her, but instead so she could imagine that she was singing to Jesus. She would imagine Him in front of her. No one else - just Him.
And about her open hands --- she said when people keep their hands all closed up as they're singing to God, it sort of represents their heart, their mind, their soul --- all closed up. But if we open our hands up and bear the soft palm of them to God, we can imagine our hearts are opening up and flowing out to Him. When we do that --- God will respond and pour back into us -- into that exposed, soft place. If we can sing with our hands opened up to Him, then we're working towards opening up the rest of ourselves to Him. And that's what He wants. The song doesn't really matter; the openness of our hearts to Him does.

Years later, i sat behind a young teenage girl in church. I never saw her face. But her soul... yes. When it came time to worship, i was moved to tears as she lifted her hands high and visibly gave everything inside herself as she sang to our Father.
Covered in chills at her beautiful display of love, i looked down at my open hands held in front of me with elbows locked to my side and wanted to worship Abba --- more.
She was completely "giving" herself to Her Father --- and HE was pouring out His love on her. It was tangible. She adored Him and He adored her ---- right there in front of me.
None of her friends worshiped in the same way -- and that was perfectly fine. She was neither expectant of them to copy cat her nor was she hindered in her outflow of love to her Father. She was solitary before her King. But the way she worshiped ---  drew me towards my Father.  If she could worship Him so deeply and sweetly, then i wanted to as well. And so i began to try.

To be certain - there is no one "right" way to worship God --- and in no way am i implying that everyone must/should worship with hands held high. But --- for too many people, they limit themselves in the "way" they worship --- because they are worried about what others might think or they simply are not focused on God while they are "singing". These things matter --- most of all --- to God. God made us for one reason ---- God made us to worship and glorify Him. Period. We can do that in many ways. But do it ----

Who in scripture is noted for pleasing God with their worship?
King David ---- who even danced without his robes in the streets as he worshiped God. His own wife turned on him out of embarrassment over his display --- but David would not be hindered from worshiping God fully. God was pleased with David's worship. God was pleased with David.

"Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; He is holy." Psalm 99:5
Exalt - to raise in rank, power, or character - to elevate by praise or in estimation - to glorify - to raise high

God spoke to my heart that night --- sitting behind the teenage girl ---- who pleased Him so much.
He whispered something like...
"donna - when you sing, when you worship, when you offer a song to me ---- i care most of all that you come to me with your song - fully. i don't really care how it sounds. i don't really care how you look. i don't even care what people around you are doing or what they may think of you - you should not either. When you offer me a song --- abandon yourself and come to me in the song. i want you. i adore you. i do not want to be sung to --- i want to be worshiped ---- by your soul. Close your eyes --- see only me ---- and reach for me. I'm reaching for you."

When worshiping ---- i close my eyes, just like Mrs. Edith taught me and i imagine Christ is in front of me. And when i imagine Jesus standing in front of me ---- He is never distant or aloof or formal or proper. I imagine His grace filled eyes and eager scarred hands.

Yes - if Christ were standing in front of me --- i believe, He would be reaching for me. Why would He die on a cross for me ---- but not reach out to me?
And so --- when i worship Him --- i want to reach for Him ---- i want to respond to His greatness by reaching for Him -- with my heart first, and with the words that come out of my mouth, but also with my everything.

Christ surrendered His heart to a dying world.
Christ gave us words of life from his own mouth.
Christ gave up everything when He spread His arms and opened His hands.

Life ---
is at its best -----
when eyes are closed ------
and Heaven's heartbeat reaches down.

"The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught." Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)

Psalm 25:12-15 (the Message)
"My question: What are God-worshipers like?
   Your answer: Arrows aimed at God's bull's-eye.
They settle down in a promising place;
   Their kids inherit a prosperous farm.
God-friendship is for God-worshipers;
   They are the ones he confides in.
If I keep my eyes on God,
   I won't trip over my own feet."

Psalm 25:12-15 (NIV)
"Who, then, are those who fear the LORD?
   He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
They will spend their days in prosperity,
   and their descendants will inherit the land.
The LORD confides in those who fear him;
   he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are ever on the LORD,
   for only he will release my feet from the snare."

Photos taken by Austin Martin (of Maggie) and Jana Jackson (of Clarissa and Mark Gibson)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Watching the Creator --- create...

It was white and bland --- unappealing, colorless.
It felt its own "lack" --- and only hoped no one would notice.

But then --- the One who brings beauty from ashes and breathes life into dust ---- came.

Everything changed.

As we continue in our obedience to prepare for Kenya, we diligently release "things" we have spent years accumulating. After each yard sale we realize our home is becoming more and more "spacious". With my quiet time chair now sold to a precious friend, who will use it now as her quiet time chair --- i had borrowed Mike's old dorm room comfy chair. I'd nestle down in it with blankets and books to sit with God every morning.
But then Mike received his acceptance letter to graduate school. Within days it seemed we were packing up his car for the long drive to his "new chapter". Yep - the old dorm chair was stowed securely in his trunk --- lucky chair.

We've now moved a couch from one room to the other for my morning nesting spot. Makes me smile as i type this -- because in all this "change" God is showing me (at my needed kindergarten level) that always -- things change, we adjust. But it's the "sitting with Him" that matters and still must happen -- no matter what. What i'm sitting on or where i am -- is irrelevant. He knew i would need even this reminder to keep getting my head around --- breathing in deeply sunrise to sunrise, week after week, month after month, year after year ---- on the other side of the world.
What a patient, loving teacher.
He whispers to my soul...
"Here donna, we'll shift this in your life this way and turn this in your world that way. We'll completely remove this, and use a little less of that.  It's all so different now. But really, it's very much the same, because----
I'm still in the middle.
I'm the axis donna.
I control the speed of the spinning and the placement on the path.
You, just keep your heart buckled in and your eyes on Me."

My quiet spot is now actually better than it was before ---- with a piece of furniture i would have never guessed would have worked so perfectly. Only God...

This tranquil spot, where i read, write, listen, and pray ----- is in the same room where Maggie paints. My stacks of books inevitably find themselves resting on her painting table most days. And today as i sat here reading again --- i paused to fully embrace my grateful heart.  And i meditated on how God too pauses --- to "create" right here, in this spot, around me -- for me --- in me.

Beside me, a white canvas is waiting for color to reveal its purpose. It's a canvas stretched on a wooden frame right now --- just as surely as it will be a canvas stretched on a wooden frame after the color lands. So "what" it is --- will not change. But the colors will transform it into something usable, valuable, meaningful. Now it is only white, void, useless; unappealing in every way. But soon -- with focus and work and care and forethought --- it will completely change. The white canvas will no longer exist --- it will be transformed into what it was designed to be all along --- a beautiful painting. The Creator will touch one of His own and pour His creativity through her to transform the void into something of beauty. Yahweh -- He is in the business of transforming nothing into something. It began in Genesis and continues. Everyday. Everywhere.

As i look at the stack of my current morning books perched beside all the paints, i'm moved to realize the words in the books, the love letters from His Word, the time spent each day with Him focusing, working, listening, growing --- have the same potential to transform me. I, donna, the skin covered, cracked clay vessel, will not change on the outside --- but oh -- the inside -- yes Lord --- could we please transform that fully. I'd like to lay down much more of the old "flesh" and take in a bit of Mother Teresa and a portion of Corrie Ten Boom, plus a good helping of Ruth Bell Graham and could we round me off with a full dose of Esther and Ruth.

Words used well, for good purposes, syllables of truth, laced with love will color the bland canvas of me. They will add color where there was none. Changing what was void and empty into something He can fill up and use, transforming what had been tossed to the side into something He will flow through. And eventually God's creation will come into view. It won't just happen --- just like the paint won't just jump on the white canvas. It takes work, careful attention, forethought, diligence, and focus. It takes time -- time with the Creator --- times of intense, sincere surrender into His hands.
Just "trying to be a good person" won't paint the blankness ---- it might help keep it shiny and white --- but the colors God had intended to reveal -- the value of the finished product -- will be missed, lost.

Once we realize our blandness, our lack, the void we carry around ---- we long to be touched and transformed, used for whatever the Creator had intended from the beginning.

We can "have HIM inside us" but not be truly surrendered to Him.

We can carry the gift of Christ in our souls --- but still present a blank white canvas to the color thirsty world around us. 

We must be transformed. It doesn't just happen. We must seek after it --- ask for it --- knock on the door of the One who transforms --- and then surrender to the workings of His hands upon us.

God is still creating --- everyday --- it's what He does.
But we can easily miss it -- we must be watchful to see it --- diligent to receive it.

God is creating, transforming, making things new --- everyday.
We have a place on HIS canvas -- by HIS design -- not because we are anything ourselves -- for we who have seen the blankness of our canvas know full well --- it is only ---  by His Grace -- that He paints a stroke of His color into our lives.
Only God can bring into being --- the fullness of you, the person He has seen all along.

Only God...

What the process feels like ---- no longer matters. That the process is happening - does.
What we are sitting on or where we are sitting --- doesn't matter. That we are sitting with HIM - does.
What we looked like before --- doesn't matter. That He, by Grace, will transform us - does.
What others might say ----- doesn't matter. What He is saying --- does.

What matters most --  is that we are being transformed --- by the Creator.
We are "becoming" --- what He envisioned all along.
Beauty from ashes.
Life from dust.

"Provide for those who grieve in Zion—
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 NIV

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18

Photos taken by Maggie - of "our" spot on Mockingbird Road :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The way of God --- is always good...

When the sun comes up in the morning --- and darkness fades away --- we know --- God is good.

When rain falls steady ---- on dry, thirsty ground --- we know --- God is good.

When baby lays sleeping ---- after filling its stomach with mother's best --- we know --- God is good.

When tiny birds fly ---- after weeks in the cramped nest --- we know --- God is good.

When fever breaks ---- after hours of care --- we know --- God is good.

When food is before us ---- quieting hunger pangs --- we know --- God is good.

but what about ----

when the baby cries of hunger, the rain doesn't come, the fever doesn't break, the baby bird is found by a snake before its wings are strong enough to fly, or the circumstances of life cause even the sunrise to fade in our perception?

Is God still good?

Can we really still trust Him?

Can we believe the words in Deuteronomy and 1 Kings and Joshua and Hebrews? The words that say - God will never leave us?
"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

When it doesn't "feel" like God is with us --- when the circumstances "look" as if He has left us --- when we feel abandoned --- what is the truth then? Is He gone? or did He change His mind on that whole "grace thing" because He chose to no longer overlook my unworthiness.
In those moments of "despair" --- do we cave into the fear that --- He too has walked away and has chosen to invest His grace and blessings elsewhere?

 After all --- others we may have displeased have walked away. We know the sting of abandonment. Why wouldn't God do the same. Surely His demands are proportionate to His greatness -- HE is GOD --- right?
And in the madness of "feeling" rejected by the Creator ---- we become unable to "hear" His Words, to "see" Him,  to rest in Him, to move forward.  
All that scriptural business of ---- "in my weakness HE is strong" and "My grace is sufficient" --- that may apply to others and it may work out for them --- but i know this person inside me -- and if God is as wise as they say He is --- then He will be smart enough to see the bad investment i would be --- and He too --- will walk away --- right?

Obviously --- that's exactly what He has chosen to do --- just look at my life. Look at my situation. Look at where "trusting God" has gotten me. 

The voice of doubt ----- it can seem to have a compelling opening statement, moving key witnesses, and a closing argument that nails the coffin shut. He can be quite convincing ----- after all ---- sometimes life's circumstances don't line up with the whole "God is good" theory.


Years ago i read a short story by an unknown author. It was life altering for me --- sincerely --- not being dramatic there ---- life altering.
Here it is for you now:

Two Traveling Angels
Two traveling angels stopped to spend the night in the home of a wealthy family. The family was rude and refused to let the angels stay in the mansion's guest room. Instead the angels were given a small space in the cold basement. As they made their bed on the hard floor, the older angel saw a hole in the wall and repaired it.
When the younger angel asked why, the older angel replied, "Things aren't always what they seem."
The next night the pair came to rest at the house of a very poor, but very hospitable farmer and his wife. After sharing what little food they had the couple let the angels sleep in their bed where they could have a good night's rest.
When the sun came up the next morning the angels found the farmer and his wife in tears. Their only cow, whose milk had been their sole income, lay dead in the field.
The younger angel was infuriated and asked the older angel, "How could you have let this happen? The first man had everything, yet you helped him. The second family had little but was willing to share everything, and you let the cow die."
"Things aren't always what they seem," the older angel replied. "When we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold stored in that hole in the wall. Since the owner was so obsessed with greed and unwilling to share his good fortune, I sealed the wall so he couldn't find it."
"Then last night as we slept in the farmers bed, the angel of death came for his wife. I gave him the cow instead. 
Things aren't always what they seem." 

Truth --- 
no matter what we are facing --- 
no matter who is or is not standing beside us ---
no matter how our circumstances "look" ----- 
God is always good.

No matter if we live with plenty or if we live with little ---- God is good --- and He loves us deeply.
No matter if we are healthy and whole or sick and weak --- God is good --- and He loves us deeply.
No matter if life looks exactly as we had hoped it would or if it looks nothing like what we dreamed of --- God is still good ---- and He loves us deeply.
No matter if we are surrounded by those we love --- or we find ourselves alone --- God is good ---- and He loves us deeply.

This morning --- my twenty four year old treasure --- pulled out of the driveway --- the horizon of his future set on his GPS --- headed to Virginia - to study and grow and become --- with His Father.

May he always remember - may it be ingrained in his heart and mind and set in his soul ---- that God is good and loves him deeply ----
not because of what he will do ---
not because of who he pleases ---
not because of what others say or think ---
not because of success ---
not in relation to anything seen or felt or said or done in this realm ----

but -- God is good ---- His plans for us are good ---- even if/when things don't seem that way.

Things aren't always what they seem.
But God is ALWAYS good.
Things aren't always what they seem.
But God is ALWAYS good.
Things aren't always what they seem.
But God is ALWAYS good.


"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

"But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

"Teach me your way, LORD;
   lead me in a straight path
   because of my oppressors."Psalm 27:11 (NIV)

"Point me down your highway, God;
      direct me along a well-lighted street;
      show my enemies whose side you're on." Psalm 27:11 (Message)

"I remain confident of this:
   I will see the goodness of the LORD
   in the land of the living.
 Wait for the LORD;
   be strong and take heart
   and wait for the LORD." Psalm 27:13-14 (NIV)

"I'm sure now I'll see God's goodness
      in the exuberant earth.
   Stay with God!
      Take heart. Don't quit.
   I'll say it again:
      Stay with God." Psalm 27:13-14 (Message)

Photos taken by Maggie and me at Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Yellowstone

©2011 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Up off the closet floor --- back on battlefield...

The space on this blog posting is not nearly sufficient to share of the battle that happened around me last week. But thankfully -- the battle - is not the important part. I will share what matters --- the God response. In obedience of this pursuit of transparency, as i reach for the Robes of Christ, -- i will be diligent to share how over and over again --- I FIND HIM FAITHFUL.

I believe fully in Heaven - the One true God - His many angels - with warrior angels among them. I likewise believe there is an enemy to our Father -- who was an angel - but fell because of pride and now leads legions of fallen angels in an attempt to destroy what is good and Godly in this world. Their kingdom is hell --- and they work to fill it up.

This past week --- really over a 9 day time span --- the warrior angels were battling in my stead against an army of evil --- that was set to "kill, steal, and destroy".
Apparently ---- some amazing things that happened in ministry made something or someone (unseen by human eyes) angry --- and so an attack was issued.
I fell under this attack. Not proud of that fact - but so thankful for my Father's response.
No worries - i didn't fall in ways we might think of -- no guns or drugs or illegal acts were involved in the falling.
Instead --- i fell under the silent, loud attack of the enemy -- and ended up a mess in my closet floor -- weeping --- and needing one thing --- God's Word.

Is it improper for me to speak so openly of it?
Does it make me "look bad" to admit --- i was a crying mess because i was wounded in battle?
Have you never fallen under an attack and needed help to get back up?

Some people fall in very visible ways ---- we can see their stumbling --- we can recognize they need help perhaps even before they themselves can see it. But sometimes the attack is stealthy -- and silent --- and so effective --- such that no one else even sees the arsenal that impacted you --- but you find you can't breathe and you're face down on the "battlefield".
This shouldn't scare us ----- or seem odd at all.
But it is a frightening experience --- because we realize that while there is no blood flowing from the impact of a sword or arrow --- we find that we are face down and struggling to get back up.

If you are a child of God --- if you are not "asleep" in your walk with God --- if you sense the struggle between good and bad - righteousness and evil - God and satan - and if you are "standing" under God --- then you fully know what i am speaking of --- you could likely write a page or two here yourself. Some people are oblivious to it all ---- they just get up, go through the motions of life, and die ---- unaware of the intense struggle surrounding them. They may be allowed to be blind to the battle (or they may choose to not see it) --- because they are posing no threat to the enemy. They just keep their head down, stay quiet, perhaps try and live a "good" life not hurting anyone but not standing up for anyone or anything either --- and so they are not even really on the battlefield --- they have chosen to "fall back" and hang close to the rear - or better yet - perhaps some choose to never even put on their armor. No battle is on their agenda. They say things like --- "That's God's business - i'll leave that to him." "I'm too frightened to even think about such things." "That's just asking for trouble.""i'd rather slide by under the radar, than bring any attention my way."
And some people live their whole lives ------ hiding.
The enemy of our Lord ----- is our enemy too ------ and if we are willing to receive all the great goodness our Lord blesses us with ---- shouldn't we be willing to don the armor He calls us to wear?

God could have chosen from the beginning of time ---- for good to simply prevail --- for evil to be defeated --- and never impact our lives.
But --- God - being God --- knew the best way to enable us to become wiser and stronger and more discerning and effective.
He wanted us to see both the good from Him and the bad from the enemy ----- and He wanted us to CHOOSE HIM.
Choosing God --- should also mean ---- we stand against the enemy of our God.

God --- through HIS WORD --- explains that we are in a battle --- this world is not our home --- and that through "standing" with Him, under Him, for Him, we will slowly be transformed and strengthened by Him. Our lives will become more and more Christ-like. Others will be affected by our strength (or our weakness).

Many people ---- will not speak of it --- this spiritual struggle going on in the heavenlies --- that is often felt in our world. But i --- i will. I've seen too many hurting, struggling, wounded people --- looking around and asking "why is this happening?" "why can't i just stop doing the thing i do not really want to do?" "why does life have to be so hard?", "why?"

Steve and i are feeling the blessings of our Heavenly Father as we make sincere, steady progress towards our move to Kenya. The ONLY reason we are going is because God made the "call" very, very clear to us. To not go would be disobedience --- to go --- is obedience.
But as we continue in obedience --- perhaps the enemy of our Lord sees the potential that God will begin moving "troops" into areas have been in his dark domain. Perhaps the Light is about to begin shining in areas that had previously been held securely in the darkness. This --- we believe fully --- is God's plan. As a result though ---- the darkness will not want to lose its territory.
And so ---- attempts are made to stop us, hurt us, wound us deeply, --- at the very least to slow us down ---- and there are no rules in this type battle.
There is however an overarching fact ----  the overall battle between good and evil ---------- God has already WON.
Christ's death and resurrection ---- secured forever the enemy's inability to block the love of our Father to His children and the Father's provision for a Heavenly sanctuary for His own. God wants ALL to come to Him ---- and so war is still waged. The enemy of our Lord wants no one to know the love and security of eternity in Heaven. After all --- he - lucifer - knows full well the riches that await God's children in Heaven --- since he lost them all.
He is angry --- he wants many to hurt with him ---- he wants most of all to hurt God --- by hurting those God loves.

And so ------ this is not the time to sleep.
There is a battle going on around us.

How do we take up our stance on the battlefield?

- We read, take in, live in, absorb, rest in, grow in ---- God's Word. We don't just read it because "the preacher says we should". We read God's Word because it is LIFE to our bones and BLOOD in our veins. We need it.
- We pray ---- daily --- continually --- without stopping --- we speak to our Father about everything - for everyone - we don't talk to ourselves - we talk to HIM.
- We open our eyes --- and really SEE -- those who are hurting around us (or on the other side of the world) ---- those who are wounded - those who are not being loved - those who are hungry and cold and scared and alone ---- we stop focusing on comforting those who are already comfortable -- (and those who are consumed with their own comforting) --- we turn our eyes towards those that know no comfort and need to feel God's love poured out on them. We are honored and able to pour out our Father's goodness on them --- and so we do.
- We die to ourselves and our concerns over ourselves --- because others matter more. God will care for us as we allow Him to flow through us to others that may not have ever felt His goodness in their lives. Those the enemy has been tormenting --- because the hands and feet of Christ have not arrived to them yet. We go to them -- in Christ.
- We put on the armor of God daily - daily - daily.
The belt of TRUTH (focusing on what is true from God - controlling our thought-life),
the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS (we are righteous ONLY because of Christ's sacrifice and gift to us),
with feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of Peace (by living in God's Word we become fully prepared),
the shield of faith which will enable us to extinguish the flaming arrows shot at us by the enemy (even if it does take a few minutes for the arrows to fully extinguish),
the helmet of Salvation (given to us by Christ at Calvary -- when we believe),
and the Sword of the Spirit which is God's Word (filled with all we need to be fully equipped to defeat the enemy).
- We watch for our fellow warriors in Christ, on the field with us, and who have taken a hit --- and we encourage them - we help them, we help them get back up, we stand with them and never leave them on the field alone.

This past weekend --- Pete, our youngest, had his wisdom teeth removed. He was quiet and still and laying on the couch for 3 days. And so, to be near him, we opted to put life on pause and "hang out" with him in his recovering. Our mostly grown boys, Mike and Peter, chose to watch the decade old trilogy "The Lord of the Rings". Steve and i had never seen them fully - only parts.
I've never really liked the gory battles and ongoing struggle --- still can't say i do.
But this past weekend --- after my "face down on the battlefield experience" last week ---- God spoke to my heart over and over again as i listened and watched with "different" eyes and ears. Strangely enough --- i was being comforted and encouraged --- from God --- in the watching of this epic story.

Many, many quotes from the movie have nested in my thoughts --- and they line up with God's Word in amazing ways. Tolkien, the author and a brother in Christ, had a very clear message to communicate and he did so masterfully. He was certainly familiar with the "battlefield" the children of God are called to ---- what encouragement his skillful storytelling gives to us who feel the mud of the field under us.

In one scene - Sam is encouraging Frodo --- Frodo is exhausted from the struggle. Sam cares. Sam speaks beautiful words that fill Frodo's veins with strength. Here are their words:

Frodo: I can't do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.

And so ---- as i lay in the floor of my closet --- weathering a nasty attack ---- I realized --- I lay in the lap of my Lord and remembered ---
"I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13

But to do so --- i needed to get up --- and "stand".
Because of Christ - and God's great faithfulness --- we can.

****As i write this blog -- i also remember the 31 US soldiers who died in physical battle this past Saturday. May God comfort and care for their families and loved ones and may they each find a place of rest in Him. I believe fully --- these soldiers were standing for what is right and fighting against what is wrong.  The evil they fought against in the physical realm is but a spill over of what is ever present in the spirit realm. They were brave soldiers --- who gave all --- for the uplifting of what is right and good. May they, and all who have given all, be fully honored. ****

"Give me a sign of your goodness,
   that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
   for you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me." Psalm 86:17

"I remain confident of this:
   I will see the goodness of the LORD
   in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 
 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."
Ephesians 6:10-20

Photos taken by Maggie and Steve in Kenya and Swaziland.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The primary battle of life...

Do we realize there is a spiritual battle surrounding us? It would be more comfortable to stick my head in the sand and dream of Disney World --- but as i've shared in a previous posting -- comfort is no longer allowed to be my god. And so we face what is uncomfortable in order to know the full truth of all matters.

One of the books i'm currently reading is Neil Anderson's "Bondage Breaker". It's a must read.
Becoming knowledgeable about the "battlefield" our Lord clearly told us we are on (Ephesians 6:12) --- is a must. Why else would our Lord have instructed us to "put on the full armor of God, so that you can stand against the devil's schemes."? (Ephesians 6:11-13)
Our Father knew we would need armor ---
He knew we would be in the middle of a battle ---
He knew some would choose silent defeat and prefer sitting on the bench --- preferring average with "self" over extravagant with God. After all - average is easier than extravagant. Average is what comes naturally, extravagant must be pursued.
But He knew some would be willing to "stand" -- and they would need His help in choosing the armor that would be effective against the dark one.

We, those who have chosen Him, those who are saved by His Grace, are to be living lives that are powerful and anointed --- not defeated and weak, we may have weak moments, we may feel defeated for a time - but we are NOT to be living there. "By His wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5 and 1 Peter 2:24)  On the cross, Christ defeated the enemy FULLY. The one who is like a roaring lion, seeking who he can devour (1 Peter 5:8) --- knows he has been defeated - but he wants to consume all that he can before the final trumpet blows announce the final return of the One who defeated him.

Lions eat flesh ---- the flesh the enemy wants to devour is in our minds, in our thinking, in our heads.
But God in Heaven tells us in His Word exactly how to "resist the devil --- and he will flee". (James 4:7)
We are lambs --- we, in and of ourselves are truly helpless --- but we have a mighty Shepherd.

In Neil Anderson's "Bondage Breaker", he teaches us about one of the primary ways the enemy will work to devour his prey --- after all --- the easiest prey to kill and devour would be prey that is held in some sort of bondage...

Mr. Anderson writes:
"To deny ourselves is to deny self-rule. Dying to self is the primary battle of life. The flesh scrambles for the throne and struggles to be God. Jesus doesn't enter into the battle; He's already won it. He occupies the throne and graciously offers to share it with us. But for some deceptive reason, we want to be king and rule our own lives. Until we deny ourselves that which was never meant to be ours --- the role of being God in our lives -- we will never be at peace with ourselves or with God, and we will never be free.
"You were not designed to function independent of God, nor was your soul designed to function as a master. 'No one can serve two masters' (Matthew 6:24). When you deny yourself, you invite God to take the throne of your life, to occupy what is rightfully His, so that you may function as a person who is spiritually alive in Christ. Denying yourself is essential to spiritual freedom."

"Dying to self" or denying self has nothing to do with maiming or defacing the physical body --- no self destructive act is reflective of a person "dying to self". Peace is usually the overwhelming quality of a person who has died to self and lives in Christ. (Colossians 3:1)

So what does "self on the throne" actually look like? How can we know if we have unknowingly placed ourselves on an invisible throne? (remember the enemy is called the master deceiver -- he will rarely make it obvious when he is at work in our lives)

"self" is on the throne when -----
-my thoughts are not measured against God's Word and therefore they rule my life
-my desires matter more to me than God's plans
-my wants dictate my choices rather than God's guidance to me
-my way must prevail
-self promotion is common place - i must impress others
-what others think of me controls me --- not what God says to me
-it's all about how it looks - not how it really is
-i'm willing to make others feel guilty to get what i want
-when I will control and manipulate others to get what i want
-when i think i know what is best-- "if they would just listen to me..."
-when i embrace the notion "that's just the way it's always been" and therefore
i do not reach for God's desired changes in my life
-when reaching for "more"of God's ways" is too much of an effort
-when hurts control our minds - and become our focus
(yes - feeling sorry for ourselves/self pity - is a personal throne room)
-when i do not "listen" to others but instead am planning my words of response as they talk
-when impressing others drives me
-when i am willing to intimidate someone to get my way
-when i will abuse my authority over another to feel powerful
-when i'm afraid to speak God's truths because i don't want to "upset" anyone
-when i want you to "like" me so much that i'm unwilling to be honest with you
-when how i "look" matters more than how i made another "feel"
-when what i want, feel, or think matters most...
and i'm willing to "walk on" others to have it
(but not in ways that will necessarily show --- because i wouldn't want to "look bad")

i lived for much of my life ---- bending an invisible knee to "self" ---- this nauseating god that can remain deceitfully hidden, just out of our own eyesight. But --- be certain of this --- others in our life can see it very clearly --- when "self" sits on the throne. 
They are wounded by its presence.
Our Lord is GRIEVED at the idolatry.
(I know -- that sounds so very harsh ---- idolatry --- but it is the truth.)

Many, many Christians ---- wonderful, good, even Godly people --- have a masked "self" sitting on a throne in their life. It's a clever plan of bondage put in place by the enemy of our Lord.

Bow down to "self" ---- and be devoured ---- which promotes defending and protecting "self". It's a circular spiral downward ---- defeated and confused ----- as "self" leaves us empty, usually alone, and lacking so much (even though everything might still "look good" on the outside).

Likewise --- die to self --- that Christ may increase (John 3:30) ---  willing to put to the side what "self" wants, or thinks (tear down that throne) ----- and the "good fruit that will last" will be abundant -- filled up to overflowing. (Matthew 7:20 and John 15:16)

It won't look the way "self" would have planned it.
It will be much, much better.

"Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." Matthew 7:20 (NIV)

"He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30 (NIV)

"Looking at it one way, you could say, "Anything goes. Because of God's immense generosity and grace, we don't have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster." But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well." 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (the Message)

Photos taken by Maggie on Cumberland Island, GA and Steve at the Maasai Mara, Kenya