Bloom Anyway

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Looking back, I am unimpressed with the amount of time I spent trying to impress people who didn’t impress me. Sometimes you just need to bloom where you are planted while the storm rages.

It always blows over eventually.

People who manipulate with fear and intimidation are often fearful and intimidated themselves.

Confident peace is a weapon they don’t understand. It frustrates them.

Bloom anyway.

Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back.
But when you place your confidence in the Lord,
you will be seated in the high place.

(Proverbs 29:25 TPT)

When God Says No

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I’ve learned that God is not nearly as restrictive as the culture I grew up in. He doesn’t place fences around fences around fences out of fear of one of us accidently going too far – at least for those who desire to grow in relationship with him.

The more we look to the Holy Spirit to guide us with his love and empower us with his grace, the more rule-making and rule-keeping becomes superfluous. In fact, rule-keeping can keep us from a closer walk with God, for we tend to focus on definitions of right-and-wrong behaviour rather than a love-based relationship that shows in our choices. When we rely on study alone and forget that the scriptures tells us we can, indeed, hear the Shepherd, we don’t bother to listen. (for Weeding Out the Noise click here.)

My own sheep will hear my voice and I know each one, and they will follow me. (John 10:27)

But sometimes I forget to ask him. Sometimes I start to walk in self-confidence instead of Holy Spirit-confidence. It looks good to me so away I go. Sometimes I barge ahead when I need to stay close to God and pay attention to the wisdom from above. Not all is as it first appears. Not every well-intended action is wise. Not everyone has the same assignment. Not all my own unexamined motives are pure.

More than once I have gone along with projects that looked good and ignored warning signs. The road may be right for them and suited to their personal equipping, but it’s not for me, at least not now. Often, I have found myself bogged down in burdensome tasks because I was led by my own desire to alleviate suffering (or my own privilege-guilt) without paying attention and asking for discernment in this particular situation. I wanted to do something – anything. So I did.

It didn’t turn out so well.

I once joined a group of people who seemed to be forging the way for greater things to be done in this city. I was happy to learn from them, even though they seemed to concentrate more on looking for historic strongholds of evil and what the devil was doing than looking at what Jesus was doing. Then I had a dream.

In the dream I was travelling down a local country lane which is called Hidden Valley Road. I came to a red light where there is no red light in real life. When the light didn’t change, I assumed it wasn’t working and kept going. Then a barbed wire fence appeared across the road. Now my curiosity kicked in. What was it I was not supposed to see?

In the dream I crawled under the fence to peak at what was around the bend. Suddenly a rockslide tumbled down the hillside in front of me. Boulders covered the road missing my toes by millimeters.

“What was that about?” I prayed after I woke up.

Over the next few days, I came to realize that when I asked the Lord to guide my path he would. He was saying no. Exploring the hidden valleys of darkness was not for me. My assignment is to talk about his goodness and his mercy. I longed for a group of friends in which I felt I could belong and be understood so much that it was difficult to drop out, but I did.

It wasn’t until months later the wisdom of stepping away was confirmed.

Most of the time I hear the Lord say that he gives us much more freedom to grow than we have this far taken advantage of. But greater freedom comes with greater responsibility to stay close to him. When he says no we need to stop immediately, even when we don’t understand the reason or fear offending someone.

I am learning to hear his voice. Sometimes I am wrong, and I need to admit when I have missed it, but God is good and there is grace for the maturing process. The faith walk in real time means taking risks, taking responsibility, and learning how to respond more quickly the next time.

But solid food is for the mature, whose spiritual senses perceive heavenly matters. And they have been adequately trained by what they’ve experienced to emerge with understanding of the difference between what is truly excellent and what is evil and harmful.

(Hebrews 5:14 TPT)

Refresh

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“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me. For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.”

(Matthew 11:28-30 TPT)

Listen Carefully: Hearing God’s Voice

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I wish you could hear the songbirds in the trees surrounding my outdoor office. I wish so much you could hear them that I endeavoured to record them.

The result was not as anticipated.

What I heard on the recording was
a train, somewhere a long way off,
traffic on the highway down in the valley,
an air conditioner fan accompanied by windchimes,
the neighbour cleaning his barbecue,
kids yelling,
a dog barking,
a water sprinkler intermittently hitting a fence,
the breeze rustling the leaves,
and tiny birds singing their tiny songs.

The extra sounds had been there all along, but when I was concentrating on the birds I was able to block the noises out. The microphone picked up everything.

As I sat at my computer, I heard another sound, a still small voice saying, “Yes. Hearing is about focus.”

Not long ago, when someone spoke about hearing God’s voice I rolled my eyes.

“Riiiight. How nice for you.”

That was before the Holy Spirit grabbed my attention and spoke to me in subtle ways I hadn’t noticed before. The reason I hadn’t noticed was because my brain is a noisy place constantly full of clutter and distraction. It’s like “the wall of sound” arrangement of music in most popular recordings of the last thirty years. Silence feels weird.

It wasn’t until I started to learn how to still my heart and wait that I could detect a song I hadn’t noticed before. I am so easily distracted. I tend to pack my waking hours with the urgent, the dire, the entertaining, the outrageous, and the humorously absurd. It’s hard to say excuse me to demands of my own making, but once I heard the song, I wanted more.

I desperately want more.

Now I’ll listen carefully for your voice
and wait to hear whatever you say.
Let me hear your promise of peace—
the message every one of your godly lovers longs to hear.

(Psalm 85:8 TPT)

Written in Blood

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Some of the things I post are written in blood. My blood. They have cost me plenty and were a struggle to write, but I knew there was gold in them.

Apparently no one else, or at least very few, noticed the sparkle.

I don’t check blog stats most of the time anymore. I am realizing that some concepts I struggle  to articulate are mostly the result of my need to process something that matters only to me and perhaps a handful of others. They are not without value — just without hits.

Some of the things I’ve posted are more like quick sketches on the back of a junk mail envelope. Sometimes something I wrote in 15 minutes catches the attention of readers. A friend with a large following shared one of those recently. Within a few hours I received an unexpected notification from WordPress that it was receiving thousands of hits. (Thanks, PM.) I desperately wanted to go back and fix some details, the kind of awkward bits I am nose-blind to until I sniff around from the vicarious position of an expected house guest, but too late.

I wonder what it was like for serious composers who spent years struggling to write symphonies and operas and oratorios only to have their reputation hang on a simple song they wrote for a local playhouse because they needed quick rent money. Bobby McFerrin is a brilliant classical and jazz musician. What is he known for? Don’t Worry. Be Happy (which I actually enjoy listening to on gloomy rainy days like this one.)

Fans are fickle. God is committed to my good. I need a reminder not to get them confused. He showed us how to be who he created us to be when wrote his message in blood long before anyone (including me) had any idea of what he was talking about.

For an audience of one.

(But you can read this too — if you want to.)

Well, I’ll Be

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“She’s done it again.”
“What’s she done this time?”
“She was supposed to have surgery this morning, right? The doctors said she needed it or she could lose that kidney or even die.“
“So, what happened?”
“She told him that she saw Jesus at the foot of her bed during the night and he told her she was healed.”
“Jesus! She’s crazy.”
“I know. That’s what I said. This is so embarrassing. I told her I wouldn’t be a part of it. I walked out.”
“Did they cancel the surgery then?”
“They had to. She refused to get on the gurney. She got dressed, signed herself out against medical advice and took the bus home.”
“Can she do that? I mean she was in so much pain when I saw her the other day. How could she even get on a bus?”
“She did it. She came home and washed some things. I watched her hang them on the line, then – you’re not going to believe this — she went out to meet Mrs. Dipple for tea. She said not to worry, she’d pick up something for supper while she was downtown.”
“Well, I’ll be.”
“I’ll probably have to drive her back to the hospital.”
“I don’t know…”

This is a conversation I overheard when I was a teenager.
Grandma was fine. She lived another twenty years, worked as an international tour guide until she was 81 and never had another problem with her kidneys.
Well, I’ll be.