Too Good To Not Be True

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With my whole heart, with my whole life
And with my innermost being,
I bow in wonder and love before you, the Holy God!
Yahweh, you are my soul’s celebration;
How could I ever forget the miracles of kindness you’ve done for me?
You kissed my heart with forgiveness, in spite of all I’ve done.
You healed me inside and out from every disease.
You’ve rescued me from hell and saved my life.
You’ve crowned me with love and mercy and made me a king.
You satisfy my every desire with good things.
You supercharged my life so that I soar again
Like a flying eagle in the sky.
You’re a God who makes things right,
Giving justice to the defenseless…

(Psalm 103:1-6 The Passion Translation)

There are passages of scripture some of us have learned are part of our inheritance. We keep running into them  at crucial moments in our lives. They show up when we most need them. Psalm 103 is one of those passages for me.

The irony is that the Lord brings it to my attention when I feel least likely to be able to declare it without engaging a considerable amount of faith. Circumstances would seem to point in another direction.

But we live by faith and not by sight.

So today I stand and declare: You supercharged my life so that I soar again like an eagle flying in the sky!

It’s about His faithfulness. Therefore I have hope, the evidence of things not seen.

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Heart Change

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Politics deals with externals: borders, wealth, crimes. Authentic forgiveness deals with the evil in a persons heart, something for which politics has no cure. Virulent evil (racism, ethnic hatred) spreads through society like an airborne disease, one cough infects a whole busload. When moments of grace do occur, the world must pause, fall silent, and acknowledge that indeed forgiveness offers a kind of cure. There will be no escape from wars, from hunger, from misery, from rancid discrimination, from denial of human rights, if our hearts aren’t changed.

-Philip Yancey

The Sun is Coming Back!

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I picked up a nasty case of the flu this week. My health has improved so much in the last few years that I am rather impatient with illness now. I’m reminded of what life used to be like when I just accepted sickness as “God’s will for my life,” never considering that maybe it wasn’t.

I used to take pride in myself as an overcomer, pushing through pain to accomplish something greater than expected – under the circumstances. Then one day, after someone asked what it would cost me to be well, I realized an overcomer needs things to overcome to preserve their reputation. I was subconsciously creating a place for chronic sickness as part of my identity. Quite frankly, I enjoyed a lifestyle that drafted caretakers and gave me an excuse to remain uncommitted to future projects. I was insulted by the question, but oh, it was a good one. That was a humbling moment.

Am I a healthy person now? Healthier, yes, but I still wait on the Lord for a number of things that are still disordered. But I’ve passed the postulated sell-by dates more than once and have seen some chronic conditions go away. In November hearing loss in my left ear was restored after kind people prayed for me. (Thank you, Lord!) Now it’s wonky again because of a block of mucous that feels like it takes up more space in my head than my brain, but this too shall pass.

I was thinking about set-backs and the number of dear people I know who have felt the disappointment of set-backs in all sorts of areas in this past year, or even this past month. Then I decided to come against the woe-is-me stuff in a different spirit. I started thinking about gains for which to be thankful.

Here’s one. I just checked. Since December 21st the valley has gained 9.13 more minutes of sunlight a day. For me that’s like the Dow Jones surging upwards for ten days straight.

I’m recycling a photo today because I haven’t been outside for a while. But hey, the sun is coming back, and I rejoice in hope.

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You Are With Me in Those Dark Moments

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“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)

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Thank you, Lord.

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On the Outside Looking In

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I love raiding people’s bookshelves when I am a house guest. It’s like a conversation that continues after everyone has gone to bed. Tell me more about who you are and what’s important to you.

My son-in-law caught me perusing his shelves one evening.

“Here,” he said, pulling a thin book out of the line-up. “You will like this author. He presents profound ideas in a palatable way, and he has your sense of humour.”

The author was Graham Cooke. The book changed my life. I ordered more of his books and devoured Youtube videos. He was teaching concepts that confirmed what I felt the Lord was showing me but I didn’t have words for yet. He was also teaching concepts that made me run to the scripture to see if this was true. If it was I was going to have to make some major course changes in the way I thought, and who wants to mess up their head with changes if they don’t have to?

After paying attention to Bible passages I was in the habit of skipping over (to reach my “quiet time quota” for the day) I realized my thought processes needed a major overhaul in some areas.

I was pretty much on my own in exploring this new way of thinking (focusing on how God wants to reveal some new aspect of himself in every circumstance, living in my identity as a much loved child of God, praying as a bride and not a widow, realizing the old sin nature is dead and learning to jettison old sin habits in favour of making choices based on the fact that I have a new nature, understanding that Holy Spirit doesn’t merely drop by for an occasional visit because Christ is in me and I am in Christ etc.).

Progress for someone who needs to ditch a habit of overly cautious (okay, sometimes lazy) procrastination has been slow. I’ve had to back out of a few rabbit trails in my lifetime when I made the mistake of unquestioningly following guides who were more sure of themselves than they ought to be. I am wary of following one person. I don’t believe anyone has the whole picture and I need confirmation from other sources and especially need to learn to hear from the Lord myself before I make big moves. But I like this guy. He provokes me to goodness and living in joyful trust in the Lord.

Imagine my utter surprise when I walked past a little church in my neighbourhood and saw a marquee announcing that Graham Cooke would be speaking there the following weekend. What was a writer and speaker who stood before thousands at events internationally doing here in my small remote city in the Canadian Rockies? It couldn’t be the same Graham Cooke. I phoned and checked. It was! Well, I’ll be… Of course I registered for the conference.

Have you ever been in a place where someone addresses the very issues you have been discussing with God lately? I soaked it all in.

Except for one thing.

Another speaker who accompanied Mr. Cooke talked about faithfulness to friends, family and community. He stressed the importance of honouring them, especially in keeping agreements.

A local group I belonged to scheduled a meeting for the same time as the last session of the conference. A few weeks before they had changed the evening they met on to accommodate my schedule. I had planned to make my apologies and skip the meeting when this guy (bless him) used a hypothetical example so similar to my situation I felt like he had been reading my mail.

I struggled. I wanted to be at the final session. I was so hungry for more. But that evening I walked out of the conference venue and went to the local group’s meeting as an act of obedience. I asked my husband to go to the little church and take notes. He obliged, loving man that he is.

As soon as I could get away I rushed back to the church and just about bumped into Mr. Cooke as he exited the building. He smiled, nodded, got into a waiting car and left.

Someone grabbed me, “Wasn’t that absolutely marvelous? Can you believe what he said? He came here to this little place because he had a prophetic word specifically for us!”

“What did he prophesy?”

“Weren’t you paying attention?”

“I just got here. I had a meeting…”

“He told everyone 55 and older to stand up because the Lord had something for every holding out their hands to receive. Maybe someone recorded it. I’m so encouraged, so thrilled that the Lord remembers us here.”

I was 55. I wasn’t there. I didn’t hold out my hands to receive something special from the Lord’s prophet. I missed it.

I was new to this kind of stuff. I had come to see how prophecy, like healing, is still active and had been very influential and encouraging in the lives of people around me. I, however, had never received a prophetic word more specific than “God wants to be your friend” or other nice things one could write in terms so general they could apply to at least 1/12th of the population reading the newspaper on any given day. This was a specific word, and a good one. And I wasn’t there.

I tried not to let it bother me. But it did. When I got home I cried, remembering all the times I felt like I was left out as a child.

I have struggled my whole life with a pervasive sense of being on the outside looking in. Never fitting in. The girl from the religious family playing the records while other children danced at school. Too young, too old, too small, too big. The girl allergic to birthday cake and ice cream. Cinderella without a godmother. Never going to the ball.

It takes a while to recognize a set-up, especially a God set-up. I didn’t tell anyone about my great disappointment for quite a while. But the Lord used the occasion to point to a hole in my heart that needed healing. And he has been doing that. He’s also giving me connections in places I never expected, with people who understand.

One thing I have learned that I didn’t know before is that one of the jobs of a New Testament prophet is to teach people how to hear God’s voice for themselves. In Old Testament days the Holy Spirit came upon men and women to deliver a specific message. Since few had the Holy Spirit directly communicating with them, the role of prophet as  conduit became extremely important. Messages from God were few and far between. Centuries even. You couldn’t afford to miss one.

Things have changed. Jesus changed them.

Waiting for a prophet to tell us what God wants to say to us is a kind of abdication of our privilege to ask him ourselves. When we do hear from those who have heard God’s encouraging words for others, it’s nearly always a confirmation of something we have been feeling but haven’t assembled in usable form yet. It’s wonderful, but it’s a bonus. Holy Spirit himself makes his temple in hearts that are open to him now. And he promises to never leave.

When I asked the Lord sometime later why I was left out that evening, I felt him comfort me and say I wasn’t left out of the promises given. They are for me as well. I can claim them. It’s just that he didn’t want me to be distracted or tempted to worship the messenger. He wanted me to seek Him so he could tell me himself.

It’s all about relationship.

This weekend there was an event in Anaheim which I longed to attend. Many of my new friends who support Graham Cooke’s ministry are there. Again I made the decision to honour the needs of family and friends first and stayed where I have commitments. I am tempted to feel left out again, but when the Holy Spirit living in me connects with the Holy Spirit living in others, even though we are not in the same room, there is unity in the Spirit. I’m not on the outside. We are one in the Spirit. We are one in the Lord.

The Church, the Body of Christ, is wherever his people are, including here, today, on the internet, with you.

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