You Are With Me in Those Dark Moments

bw-sleeping-child-ch-rs-img_1896

“The silence that makes it possible to hear God speak also makes it possible for us to hear the world’s words for what they really are – tinny and unconvincing lies.”

-Eugene H. Peterson

In the past few weeks I’ve needed time and space to listen. Then I needed more time and more space to sort out the voices.

The Bible says not to believe every spirit, but to test the spirits to discern if they are from God. The enemy of our souls is also called the father of lies. A lot of the work of inner healing is about identifying and letting go of lies we have believed about ourselves. When Adam and Eve covered their shame and hid from God after they believed the tempter’s lie God said to them, “Who told you you were naked?”

Hint: If he was asking, it wasn’t him.

I’ve had a lot of emotional healing in my life. Each time I think I’ve addressed everything by forgiving, taking my hands off the throat of the person I felt hurt me, blessing them and turning to Jesus Christ to meet my needs. And he does.

Then after a while Holy Spirit decides it’s time to take me deeper.

The process of healing the soul and renewing the mind sometimes makes me feel like I am going in circles. I thought I dealt with this memory or this resentment already, but here it is back again. I am realizing that the circle is actually a spiral and each time we go around we go deeper. Each time I am more willing to let him touch the more painful places because I am learning to trust his love and faithfulness to complete what he started.

Recently two kind women were helping me recognize barriers that were keeping me from staying close to God. I needed to forgive again and bless again. Then one asked me, “How did you envision God when you were a child?”

I told her about the recurring nightmare I had for years as a child. In the dream I’m sitting on a dock and dangling my feet in the water. Others are enjoying putting their bare feet in the lake and laughing and splashing each other, but there is no room for me so I sit on the left side of the warm wooden pier. Suddenly the sky turns dark and wind blows sleet in our faces. The adults are angry with me for starting this. They tell me it is forbidden to put my feet in the water on that side. I am taken to a pit that is the bottom of an elevator shaft to be punished for my crime.

My family is sad that I am about to be crushed but they try to cheer me up with gum and comfort me by covering me with an army blanket. Nevertheless they do nothing to rescue me because this is what God requires. People who commit sin, even if they didn’t know it is a sin, must be punished for the good of the community. I watch the square floor come down and I know that this is God Himself coming down to crush me. I wake up just before the cold metal touches my face.

Of course I don’t believe there is any truth in that dream. I think it was sent by an agent of the father of lies to keep me from being able to love God freely. I didn’t think there was any reason to talk further about it. It was a long time ago. I have moved on.

“I’m going to do something different,” said the counselor. “I do this to help people who have been in traumatic situations. I have never prayed through a dream before, but because this nightmare was traumatic for you, let’s ask Jesus what he wants to do instead.”

We prayed, then I closed my eyes and walked through the dream again. I pictured Jesus with me.

“Where is he?” she asked.

“In the pit. He’s under the blanket with me.”

“And what does he want to show you?”

I waited. Then I saw Jesus take my hand as he welcomed the elevator.

“What does he want to show you about God?”

I cried.

“He’s showing me that God is my elevator, not my annihilator. He is introducing me to the God who has come to lift me out of the pit.”

Oh, my God! (I mean that in most most literal respectful way.) In all the years that dream has been lingering in the backroom of my memory I never noticed the significance of the word elevator. It is God who elevates me, lifts me up to sit with him in heavenly places.

That which the enemy of my soul sent as a message to fill a child with fear and discouragement the Lord of Life, in his goodness and mercy, could turn around in a few minutes into a symbol of hope and deliverance. The fearful image has been transformed in my mind into an image of hope.

The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always.

He provides me rest in rich, green fields
    beside streams of refreshing water.

He soothes my fears;

He makes me whole again,
    steering me off worn, hard paths
    to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name.

 
Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,

    I am not overcome by fear.

Because You are with me in those dark moments,

    near with Your protection and guidance,
    I am comforted.


You spread out a table before me,

    provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies;

You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil,

    filling my cup again and again with Your grace.
 
Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me

    where I go, always, everywhere.
I will always be with the Eternal,
    in Your house forever.

(Psalm 23 The Voice)

dock-mineral-lake-autumn-ch-rs-img_4279

Thank you, Lord.

Save

Save

Cease Striving

Norbury rock reflection ch be still MG_7526

I kept hearing this song in my sleep the night before last. It came after a dream in which I saw a pack of big black dogs running up behind me. I was frightened by them, but I then I realized they were army-trained rescue dogs.

Those animals which scared me, and caused others in the dream to prepare to defend themselves against the pack, were not against us; they were for us. They were the dogs of war and had been released on our behalf. They were on our side. I was told not to distract them, to be still, stand back and let them get to work. Then the song began to play over and over.

When I awoke and looked at the lyrics of the old hymn I realized “Be Still My Soul” repeats the sentiments found in Psalm 46. “Be still and know that I am God” can also be translated as “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Those words are found embedded in a psalm that is about fear in the midst of war and tumult in the earth.

Be Still, My Soul

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

(Author: Catharine Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel, 1752,
Translated by: Jane Borthwick, 1855)

 

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;

Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.

The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.

He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.

“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

(NASB)

God’s answers to our pleas for help don’t always look like what we expect. You can pray and ask God to do something, but you can’t tell him how to do it. An intercessor is called to stand in the gap without standing in the way.

Reach

snow apples ch

I was out for a walk in the first snow one fall day when I saw these apples. The branch hung over the fence in the back lane. The owner picks the fruit on lower branches on his garden side. These are more difficult to reach, so they remain unplucked year after year.

In my last post I described my dream about Esther in Ephesians. It was bracketed by two dream scenes. In the first, people were at a banquet, hosted by the evangelist. He paid for the meal. The tables were laden with food like the luxurious feasts on cruise ships. I noticed most of them were filling their plates with desserts and sugary confections. Garbage cans overflowed with healthy entrees that had been sampled and tossed.

In the last scene (after the Esther part) the banquet hall was nearly empty. I asked someone where I could get breakfast and they pointed to plates on a very high shelf. With effort I could just reach the edge of a plate and slowly slide it toward the edge until it tipped and I could catch it. It wasn’t possible to see what was up there so there was no picking and choosing. A couple of other folk managed to stretch up and coax plates down. They  also held nutritious organic fruits and vegetables and bread.

There are seasons of ebb and flow in this life. Graham Cooke calls them times of “Hiddeness and Manifestation. Sometimes there is such a strong sense of the Holy Spirit’s active engagement in our lives we can’t take it all in. Sometimes there are seasons of questions when answers seem to be sparse, when we have to stretch (move in faith) and fill up on solid basic principles about who God is and who we are in Him. These are seasons of preparation.

Razzle dazzle days are wonderful and God loves to party with his kids. That’s when the crowds show up. But sometimes he holds back to see who will be there when understanding doesn’t come as easily, when the entertainment factor is missing, when they need to ask for their daily bread, when they need solid nutritious food.

I found something to stand on then reached up and picked one of those apples. It was crisp and cold and sweet with just the right amount of tartness. Best apple I’ve ever tasted.

Angels Help Us to Adore Him

stone angel elbow bw ch

I’ve never seen an actual angel, not that I know of, at least not while I was awake. I know people who have – and some of them are the scientifically-oriented type not given to flights of fancy. I gather it’s a rather startling experience.

I’ve sung about them quite often.

Angels, help us to adore Him,

Ye behold Him face to face;

Sun and moon, bow down before Him;

Dwellers all in time and space,

Praise Him, praise Him, alleluia!

Praise with us the God of grace.

(from Praise My Soul the King of Heaven by Henry Lyte)

I’ve read about them too, but like most folk the pictures of angels I’ve been acquainted with came from Christmas decorations, Baroque paintings, corner gift shops and carved stones in cemeteries.

I’ve seen them in dreams though. One leaned down low and told me a secret that explained a lot of previously unexplained events in my childhood. Another time, after I had been praying about what action to take I saw an angel pointing to the trail I often walk on when I go to pray. He was leaning on the please-clean-up-after-your-dog sign and smiling.

I have seen angels in uniform in my dreams, in battle fatigues, in air force uniforms, and one dressed as a cable guy. He was in my house repairing something in the wall where my husband and the boys had once threaded a wire that connected their computers so they could play games together. Shortly after that I noticed a definite improvement in communication in their relationships.

When I hear people’s stories of real live encounters I become envious. I have sincerely prayed for my eyes to be opened like Elisha’s servant so I could see too, but every time I have done that someone close to me sees something, and I don’t.

When our son-in-law lay dying several people told me about seeing angels around him. One praying friend in another part of the world sent a message telling me about the angel she saw in a vision. Within a few hours I heard two other people who were there at the hospital describe seeing exactly the same thing. Some people saw two very tall angels on guard duty on either side of the door to his room. Some saw angels crowded in the room and hallways. Some saw angels holding his head.

He didn’t die. He was miraculously healed.

Just before that season when the doctor thought I had cancer, then my mother-in-law was in ICU for heart problems and surgery, our son-in-law had flesh-eating disease, and our son’s family’s home and community was nearly destroyed in a flood, etc. etc. etc. I prayed to see angels. I didn’t. My husband did though. He’s really a down-to-earth guy, a scientist, but he old me excitedly the next morning that he dreamed (or he thought it was a dream) that he answered a knock on the door and a bunch of very big angels walked past him into the living room. He said they all dressed and acted like rugby players. Big tough rowdy guys.

“What did they look like?” I demanded. “Did you see their faces? Did they have names?”

“There was a whole team of giant nine-foot tall rugby player angels crammed into our little eight foot high living room! It was really hard to see anything. All I know is that they were slapping each other on the back enthusiastically like they were really looking forward to playing a big important game. They were like ‘Bring it on! We are so ready for this!’”

Maybe I haven’t seen angels because I might be so distracted I would forget to do my part in the battle, which seems a lot like pulling out little Lucy’s tiny dagger in the presence of a whole huge army of threats and ugly hatred like she did in a battle in Narnia.

The Bible talks freely about angels, and how they are servants of God. They are not made of stone or paper or cookie dough and they aren’t chubby babies with aerodynamically impossible tiny wings. We don’t worship them, but it’s good to know the angels who worship the Creator of the Universe and see him face to face help us fight the good fight. I trust the Lord sends them where he needs them – and where I need them when I pull out my little dagger.

There are more accounts of angel sightings in the book, While He Lay Dying.

Timing

Waiting
Waiting

Timing is so important! If you are going to be successful in dance, you must be able to respond to rhythm and timing. It’s the same in the Spirit. People who don’t understand God’s timing can become spiritually spastic, trying to make the right things happen at the wrong time. They don’t get His rhythm – and everyone can tell they are out of step. They birth things prematurely, threatening the very lives of their God-given dreams.
– T. D. Jakes

Don’t Look to the Right or to the Left

In the dream I was walking through a parting of the earth like the parting of the sea. It looked like the Hollywood telling of the story of the crossing of the sea, with Charlton Heston presenting a younger and more confident Moses than the hesitant, speech-impaired fellow the Bible describes. In my dream the walls on either side of the path were not made of water but of flying rocks and dirt blown about by some amazing force.

I heard, “Don’t look around. Keep you eyes on the path. Keep going.”

“What’s happening?” I asked.

I heard, “I’m moving heaven and earth for you.”

These past few months have felt like we are walking a narrow path with crises flinging boulders and sandstorms all around our heads. It’s so easy to be distracted by circumstances that could make us panic. I have found that God usually does not answer “why” -especially as that question often comes with a whine that demands He explain Himself. He does answer “what” though, as in “What do you want me to see? What are you trying to show me about Yourself that I haven’t known before?”

He is showing me levels of love and faithfulness deeper than I had imagined.

So today as we walk through another crisis in our family and see aerial photos of our son and daughter-in-love and grandchildrens’ home and workplace and school and entire community under water, and we are cut off from each other because of broken infrastructure in this part of the world, we praise the God who is faithful, who walks through every trial with us, the loving Father who is moving heaven and earth to get His church to the place where he wants us to be. We are learning to trust  Him no matter what, to walk by faith and not by sight, and to rest in his love whether waiting for waters to go down or shovelling mud –because he is still good.

This song by Jenn Johnson has meant so much to me lately. It reminds me not to look to the left or to the right, but to keep my eyes and ears focused on my Saviour, my good Shepherd who says, “This is the way.”

Keep your eyes on the path. This is going to be good.

In a dream, in a vision of the night

Bet El/Bethel
Beit El/Bethel

The Byzantines left a structure to mark the spot in the field where Jacob/Israel is said to have had his dream of an open heaven -or at least somewhere in this area that looks like an ordinary gently sloped hillside. (Dare I say I was somewhat relieved by the absence of a huge edifice or gift shop?)

Dreams are significant enough to be mentioned at least 121 times in the Bible. I’ve learned to pay attention.

Have you had a significant dream that changed your life?

IMG_9974

Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep.  And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold,the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!  And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.  Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”  Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”  And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

 So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it  up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.  He called the name of that place Bethel. (Genesis 28)