Category Archives: Missions and ministry

Leadership, caliche, gardens, hearing from God, and finding Jesus in the Old Testament

This past weekend was amazing, as the last weekend in January for the last 17 years has always been for me.

My church has a leadership retreat every January.

That sounds run-of-the-mill, but it’s not.

We attend about 48 hours of meaty, practical, inspiring teaching sessions and have powerful worship and ministry.  It’s a time when the ministers are ministered to.

Additionally, many leaders and pastors attend from around the world, each who have close ties to my church.  This year, there were folk from Northern Ireland, Zambia, Mexico, and South Korea.  Thus, we call it the Leadership Summit.

I have no words to explain how powerful and amazing and NEEDED this event is.

So, I won’t try.

But…  a couple of things I will say:

  1. I have no great love for the desert.  How I deal with this, in my heart, ebbs and flows.  Sometimes, I do better than others, adjusting to the fact that my husband is a native of Phoenix, our greatly beloved church is here, and my husband’s amazing job is here, as well.  This past year, I struggled a lot, though.  There are a variety of reasons for that, but let’s just leave it there:  I struggled.  I have been sad.  At the Summit, with tears, I realized that I needed to… adjust my heart.  This is where I am.  This is, for my husband and perhaps even for myself, the land of our anointing, in spite of the brown, the hot, the dry, the dusty, the lifeless, burnt desert.  This is where our Father God has us.  It just is.  I don’t know why He has put a yearning in my heart for green, for rain, for humus instead of caliche, while placing me in its opposite.  Yet, He has.  And, I realized that I just had to accept His sovereignty and find my sufficiency in Him.  On Thursday night, I prayed in my heart, “Father, You are my garden.  You are my brook.  You are my green, rolling hills.  You are my rain.”  That was hard, but it was good.  The next night, I was standing there, while the worship team played and sang, just soaking it in with my palms up, receiving.  A young man from Northern Ireland came over and started praying and speaking prophetically over me.  “I see you in the Father’s orchard.  There is fruit there.  A lot of low-hanging fruit.”  He proceeded to encourage me about my life being fruitful.  And then he said, “And the Father is walking with you, in the cool of the evening.”  !!!   Those words are from the description of the time in the Garden of Eden.  I laughed.  I couldn’t help it.  God is so good, and He is so faithful to make sure I REALLY GET IT when He speaks to me.  He is my garden.

    Caliche, or what passes for “soil” in the Sonoran Desert.

  2. I went to the Summit in hopes of hearing from God for… distilling… sorting out… prioritizing… refocusing.  Instead, I felt the Father call me to become “determined to know nothing… except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”  I have debated whether or not to post about this on here.  I want to know Jesus in… obscurity.  Just know Him.  Learn more about Him.  Hear His heart.  But, I thought it also might be an encouragement to some reading this:  rather than seeking what Jesus HAS FOR ME, I’m just seeking Jesus.  Everything else for which I look — direction, maturity, a “job” in the Kingdom of God, a future and a hope — is secondary, a byproduct.  So, I committing a certain amount of time, really an extravagant amount of time, daily, to reading Scripture and hearing from God.  I’ve started in Genesis, and am planning to read fairly quickly through the Bible, and be looking for Jesus among the pages.  Yes, I know He doesn’t appear until the book of Matthew.   But, really, everything in even the Old Testament points to Jesus’ appearance here on earth.  I felt God tell me that, in spite of spending time that I, frankly, don’t have, He will continue to provide time.  He’ll provide efficiency, focus, and clarity of thought as I go through my day.  Everything that needs to get done will get done, even as I attempt to delve into the Word of God for several hours daily.
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A guitar, a crib, a dashboard, and a book club (reflections on a year in a small, weekly home group)

The school year is winding down.

Among other things, that means the small group I’ve attended for the last 9 months or so will come to a close, too*.

A few reflections on “my” group this year:

  1. As a worship leader, I don’t get to pick my group.  Each August, I hear chatter between friends, “Whose group are you thinking about going to this year?  What night is it?  Whose house is it at?  Who is the leader?  Wanna go together??”  That sort of thing.  I don’t get to participate in those conversations.  I go where I’m assigned.  That’s good news and bad news.  If there is someone who goes to a group who is a particular friend of mine, it’s totally by coincidence.  I’m often assigned to groups that I wouldn’t have personally chosen, for one reason or another.  BUT… that also means that, each year, I get to grow closer to a bunch of people who, even if I wouldn’t have chosen them for myself, God has chosen them for me!!  He knows what I need, even when I don’t.  It seems that, usually, God uses that year’s group to challenge me…  God knows that I need stretching and growth in a particular area, and proclaims to me, “Here is your opportunity!  And you can’t escape it!  Hahahaha!”  Yes, I envision God laughing at me like that.  He has a funny sense of humor.  However, this year, the group I’ve been in has been such… comfort to my heart.  Such comfort.  It is filled with thoughtful, caring, tender people, whose hearts overflow with love.  Usually, during ministry time, toward the end of our time together, I am playing my guitar, covering the environment, praying or singing over the interactions taking place in front of me.  In all my past groups, I’d rarely be the recipient of prayer.  I’m totally OK with that.  But, it has blessed me to tears that virtually every week, someone will come over and lay their hand on my shoulder and quietly speak a prayer of blessing and encouragement over me…  I feel un-forgotten.
  2. A family in my group this year has gone through something I can’t even imagine.  It has rent my heart.  For the past three years, they have fostered a baby since he was only a few weeks old.  Initially, they thought (due to the proclamations of the mother) that they were blood-related to this baby.  They didn’t find out until the baby was two, I believe, that he was actually of no blood relation.  However, they have loved and cared for him and cherished him as the son of their heart.  This past year, a distant blood relation of the child decided that they wanted the boy.  And, in what was a blow to all of us, the courts decided in favor of the distant blood relative, rather than in favor of the parents this baby has had for literally his entire life.  The mother approached me a few weeks ago…  “When he goes to live with his new family, I’d like you to have his crib for your new baby, if you want it.”  That killed me.  My heart has been so knit to this family through their struggle to keep their little boy…  And the crib is REALLY NICE.  Really nice.  I’m sure they could sell it on Craigslist and recoup some of the money spent.  But, they’d rather I have it.  They said they’d be honored.  Oh, my Lord.  *I* am honored.  The day their son went to live with his new, permanent family, about a week and a half ago, they brought the crib to my home.  So very, very bittersweet.  ~sigh~  But that crib will now be a reminder to me of that little boy who, in my estimation, should still be with the parents who raised him for more than three years.  It will be a physical reminder to pray for him, far away now…  And to pray for the parents whose hearts have been broken and broken and broken over this.
  3. On a few occasions, our group takes the opportunity to bring food and ministry to various families in need in our local area.  The last time was almost two weeks ago.  I was with a group of four others.  Usually, we have names and addresses and specific people expecting to receive us.  This past time, though, we were just sent out with bags of groceries and instructed to just pray about where to go.  The group I was in went to an apartment complex.  However, after walking around (up and down stairs) for about 30 minutes, I started having contractions and I could feel my ankles swell rapidly.  So, a man in the group and I went back to someone’s car to sit while the others finished.  This man had had a stroke five years ago and doesn’t walk well, himself.  So, we sat in the car and chatted.  I asked him all sorts of questions about his past, his stroke, his recovery, his relationships…  I kept asking and he kept talking.  It was a lovely evening, with cool breezes wafting through the open windows of the vehicle.  I kept thinking, “This is such a treasure.”  It’s hard to explain, but I had the thought, “Would I normally have 30 minutes to sit down and chat with a 60-something man?  No.  Would we ever go out to coffee together?  No.  But is this so valuable, such a blessing to the both of us??  Yes.”  Once again, it was like God saying, “I know what you need, I know what he needs, and I’m going to use this little opportunity that wouldn’t arise any other way to knit your hearts together.”  And I just kept thinking, “THIS is what being the Body of Christ is about.  THIS IS IT.  This is Church life.  This is what God does.”  He brings us into deeper and more sincere relationship, often with people we would not have chosen for ourselves to be our “buddies” but in the end, it turns out to be JUST what we needed.  God is smart like that.  🙂
  4. Lastly, I have been part of a small book club for… five years I think it has been.  Our group started out with eight women, all from “my” church.  As time has progressed, about half of us no longer go to the same church, but the group has persisted.  However, a couple of women have moved out of state, and one more is heading imminently in that direction, and on Saturday, those who remain had a little discussion:  “Whom should we invite to join us?”  And I was delighted to suggest a woman who is in my small group.  I just know she’ll be a good fit for our small group of diverse, thoughtful women who meet every other month to discuss a book which has (as is our goal) “Good Art + Good Message.”  We’ve read a great range of fiction and non-fiction, contemporary works and classics, poetry, memoirs, novels, and more.  The thing is this:  This particular woman whom I offered as a potential member, up to the other ladies…  Well, I NEVER would have known her, if it hadn’t been for small group.  We’re of much different ages, we don’t typically relate in the same circles of people…  We’re just in different walks of life.  But, after going to small group with her on Thursday nights, I know she is insightful, humorous, kind, and thinks deeply.  I very, very likely wouldn’t have discovered that, had it not been for small group.  And I look forward to getting to know her better through the book club.  And it’s good for HER, too.  We all want to be known.  We all want to be wanted.  We all need friendship.  We all long to be noticed and appreciated…

So, once again, I find myself thankful for my God, who knows what I need — and even what I want — well before I do.  And He is kind enough to set me up to “discover” it for myself.  He gives me those things, like gifts…  And I am sincerely thankful for His care over me.

————————

*My church has small home groups that meet throughout the school year, and then summers typically see a variety of special classes or Bible studies that last 2-8 weeks

Hyper-nesting, time well-spent (or not), and hearing from God…

I have a one-ish track mind.  I tend to bunch my thoughts, my efforts together in one spot…  Right now, even though I’m 26 weeks pregnant, and one might think I have, “BABY BABY BABY,” going through my mind, it’s not.

Actually, that’s somewhat of a good thing.

Historically, I start nesting somewhere around five weeks pregnant and it’s all I can do to remain focused and engaged with the rest of my life, responsibilities included, for the whole pregnancy.  I tend to spend eight solid months with a nearly compulsive bent toward thinking, dreaming, planning, preparing, for my new baby.  I put a huge amount of emotional investment and TIME into it.  On one hand, that doesn’t seem like a bad thing.  But, when I have other children who need mothering and schooling; when I have a home that needs cleaning and maintenance; when I have a husband who shouldn’t have to fight for my attention; when I have responsibilities at church that need me to NOT be thinking, “I sssooooo don’t want to be doing this;” when I have friends who merit attention, my hyper-nesting isn’t that great of a thing.

So, for me, the fact that this is on the back burner of my mind:  I’m going to be adding an 8th member to our family in three months or so…  is rather a blessing.  I’m not struggling like I usually do with wanting to drop everything and become a hermit in my home and feeling VERY CRABBY that there are other parts of my life that are calling.

I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone.

I, for one, though, am very happy to feel ENGAGED with the world at 26 weeks pregnant*.

No, this is not me. It’s Emily Robinson from the Dixie Chicks, playing a dobro.

  • We’re still doing school (though I am REALLY looking forward to our Easter Break next week).
  • My home is quite tidy (most of it).
  • I’m still leading worship in a weekly small group (though I joked that I might need to obtain a dobro sometime in the near future to accommodate my expanding belly).
  • I’m still leading worship twice a month for SuperChurch (the 6-12 year-olds’ Sunday morning service).
  • I’m still singing with the “big church” worship team two or three Sundays a month (I keep telling myself that I probably look ridiculous dancing…  Oh, well.).
  • I’m still hosting the weekly CSA at my home, and even just decided that I’m going to do at least another 12 weeks, shortly after the current season ends on May 1 (even though I’ll have to find an alternate location for while I’m in labor…).
  • If anything, I feel MORE connected to both my husband and our five children during this pregnancy.  I also feel more peaceful.  This is probably my happiest pregnancy ever.

Knowing my history, I wasn’t sure, three months ago or so, that I should do the CSA.  I often start well, but don’t finish strong.  I get all fired up for one project or another, then start to lose steam…  I was more than a bit concerned that this would be a similar endeavor, and then, when I lost focus and dropped the project, not only would I pay for it, but so would the 25 or so other people who were counting on me, and their families…

Also… and this is hard to communicate;  I can’t grasp the right descriptive words…  But, I was uncertain if the CSA was where God wanted me to invest my time.  I long to be fruitful.  I want the things I do to have lasting impact.  I want my time to be well-spent.  I want my involvement with others to have more than just a tinge of “ministry”.  I mean… not that I’m trying to make this The Christian CSA with a prayer corner, worship music in the background, and Bible verses plastered all over my fridge — not that at all.  But, I wanted this to be worthwhile in every sphere, and I wasn’t certain if hosting the CSA was a good choice in how to spend my time — time which often feels spread too thinly as it is.

So, I prayed about it.  “Is this where you want me, God?  Is this OK?”

I got no discernible response.  I’m not saying God didn’t speak, but if He did, I missed it.  I didn’t even feel vaguely “led” one way or another.

I asked my husband — who is well-acquainted with my tendency to rush into projects hard and fast and then feel overwhelmed — what he thought.  Honestly, I was a little surprised that he seemed to think favorably about the whole thing.

It didn’t seem like God was telling me, “No,” although a nice, clear, resounding, “YES!” would have made me feel much more confident.

So, I went with my husband’s approval.

Well.

I guess I had previously felt that I was hosting the CSA for my own personal benefit.  I mean, from the bottom of my heart, I truly want to equip others to eat better.  But, I was kind of compelled more by the fact that I would get roughly $40 worth of local, fresh, organic produce for FREE each week, plus earn $1 per person, per week for what seemed like very little time.

I was wrong on nearly all accounts.

In the six weeks the CSA has been operational:

  • A couple of weeks, I’ve gotten much less than $40 worth.  The remaining time I’ve received FAR more.  We’re rolling in veggies, which pleases me to no end.
  • I anticipated making around $40/week, thinking we’d have that many participants.  However, we started with only 16, and are now up to 24.  So, I am not making even enough money to pay the midwife each month, which was my thought going into it.
  • It takes much more time than I realized it would.  Not only do I devote time “on the ground” from 2:00 – 5:30 every Wednesday, but there is a lot of communication and planning involved, too.  I probably spend an additional 3-3½ hours weekly, often more.  Seven hours total every week may not seem like a lot to you, but in my world, subtracting seven hours from other things that I could be doing??  That’s huge.  That’s a big commitment.

Much more significant, though, is how I have been absolutely surprised by the positive feedback I’ve received from so many of the participants.

I was thinking recently about how, when I started blogging more than seven years ago, I was just compelled to write.  It was 100% for my own benefit.  I saw blogging as an online version of journaling:  simply documenting the time and thoughts as they passed.  I wasn’t trying to gather an admiring crowd.  I wasn’t trying to change the world.  I wasn’t trying to impress anyone or even benefit them.  I just wanted to write.

Similarly, with the CSA:  I just wanted some veggies.  Some free, organic veggies.

But with both endeavors, I have been very taken aback by the genuine thanks, the more-than-occasional encouraging note, the thoughtful gestures that have come my way…  I never thought — not once — that hosting a produce-pickup was going to make a difference in anyone’s life;  I entered into it as rather an indulgence in something of significant interest to me.  But, similar to how I am now compelled to continue blogging by the random e-mails that will start off, “Thank you for your post on ______________ .  I was in tears because of my situation of __________.  I stumbled upon your post, and it was just what I needed, and here’s how it affected me:  ______________.  It was just what I needed and I can’t tell you how thankful I am.” — I am now compelled to continue the CSA due to letters like this (shared with permission):

You’re a good friend Karen – even if “long distance”. I don’t think I would have stepped into organic thinking without your help and encouragement. The rest of my extended family think I’m nuts…a super picky eater or whatever. But I have strong convictions to take care of the body God blessed me with and it brings joy to my heart hearing my kids happily talk about healthy vegetables during mealtimes! It’s sad. I never knew any fresh vegetables except iceberg lettuce when I was a kid…nothing but canned and always over cooked. Surprisingly I took after my grandma it seems in how I feel about my health and she lived to be 70 even after smoking for 20 years of her life! She found Jesus, quit smoking & drinking cold turkey and lived a life of joy I still remember this day. I guess I’m sharing just to show my appreciation for you Karen. You have made a difference in my life too. I Love you friend.

That made me cry.  It also made me think that maybe why God was so silent was because He knew that I was just looking for Him to say, “Yes, it’s OK with me that you have this interest, and yes, it’s OK with me that you invest your time here.”  I was just looking for permission.  But He was setting me up.

I sent an e-mail of thanks back to my friend and asked her if I could put her story on my blog.  She didn’t immediately respond and I got nervous.  But, when her reply came, the tears flowed anew.

I would be honored to be a story in your blog – Please feel free to write whatever you wish! Amazing…Our Lord God never fails to love and “push” us into His most blessed plan if just choose to submit! Love you,  your thoughts & prayers are never wasted.

“Never wasted.”

I’m an ISTJ on the Myers-Briggs scale…  If you click on that link, at least 95% of it is me, to a T.

  • They have a strongly-felt internal sense of duty, which lends them a serious air and the motivation to follow through on tasks.
  • They place great importance on honesty and integrity. They are “good citizens” who can be depended on to do the right thing for their families and communities. While they generally take things very seriously, they also usually have an offbeat sense of humor and can be a lot of fun – especially at family or work-related gatherings.
  • The ISTJ will work for long periods of time and put tremendous amounts of energy into doing any task which they see as important to fulfilling a goal. However, they will resist putting energy into things which don’t make sense to them, or for which they can’t see a practical application.
  • Once the ISTJ supports a cause or idea, he or she will stop at no lengths to ensure that they are doing their duty of giving support where support is needed.
  • Traditional and family-minded, they will put forth great amounts of effort at making their homes and families running smoothly. They are responsible parents, taking their parenting roles seriously. They are usually good and generous providers to their families.
  • They are very hard workers, who do not allow obstacles to get in the way of performing their duties. They do not usually give themselves enough credit for their achievements, seeing their accomplishments simply as the natural fulfillment of their obligations.

It has actually been quite a while since I reviewed what I’m “supposed” to be like as an Introverted Sensing Thinking Judger.  But, re-reading that descriptive page makes me appreciate God more:  He who made me knows who I am.  He knows what I need.  He knows what brings me joy.  He knows what will surprise me.  He knows how to stretch me without breaking me.  And He knows just the right time to bring encouragement to me…

—————–

*It recently came to my attention that I never stated what this child will be:  SHE IS A GIRL.  My husband was 100% right.  Not only was I pregnant, but the baby is a girl.

 

 

Hellfire and Damnation

I’m sure, in my 6+ year history of blogging, I’ve mentioned the frustrating (and for a time, wounding) experience I had while in university, being accosted by a street preacher.  It was my non-Christian friend, of all people, who had to pull me away from the man with the megaphone who was shouting at me that I was a Jezebel who would burn in hell.  I tried to reason with the preacher and tell him I was a sister in Christ, but he would have none of it, and hollered at me — at point-blank range, still through the megaphone — that I was lying.  My friend, meanwhile, growled at the preacher that he had “got the wrong girl” as he dragged away my offended self.

Ah, memories.  😀

That event, oddly enough, really cemented my heart in commitment to the Vineyard church.  With its emphasis on much-more-subtle (and practical!  and never emotionally-damaging!) activities like servant evangelism, it just seemed much more in line with what Jesus would truly do (and this, my friend, was way before the WWJD phenomenon).

Recently, I have decided to read through the book of Acts.  My pastor very often uses passages from Acts in his weekly messages;  they’re very practical for the everyday life of a Christian, for he is nothing if not practical.  So, I feel like it’s a book with which I have a good acquaintance.  And I tend to concentrate my Scripture reading in portions of the Bible that are less-familiar to me.  Nevertheless, I decided to read Acts for myself…  to reacquaint myself with what the early Church was doing, and to re-prioritize it in my own life.

Most days, I only read a few verses, before cross-referencing, word study, and contemplation take over, not to mention little girls waking up early, wanting to snug.  Yesterday, however, I read the whole of chapter three.  In it is the account of Peter healing a man who was 40+ years old of a lifetime of being lame.  The thing that really struck me, though, was the tenor of Peter’s sermon on the matter, and its effect.

Consider:

Not exactly the world’s most touchy-feely sermon, eh?  But what was the fruit of it?  What was the result??

But many of those who had heard the message believed;  and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

Peter, the street preacher, with his megaphone, so to speak, delivered some really scorching words to the hearers.  And what happens?  Conviction!  Salvation!  Church growth!

His hellfire and damnation sermon WORKED.

Wow.

I suddenly have some compassion for my own street preacher — which I have never previously felt, in the twenty years or so since it happened!  Perhaps he was just trying to follow Peter’s lead, expecting the same result.

This morning, pondering it further, I was reminded of George Müller, whose amazing life is a profound testament to prayer, faithfulness, and God’s redeeming power, not to mention vast social change*.  If I am remembering correctly, when George first became a believer, he took his university Divinity education, and tried “pastoring” simple German farming folk** with high-falutin’ sermons, even copying, word-for-word, some of the most sophisticated ones he could find, in hopes of impressing those who heard.  The result was that he impressed them, all right, but he didn’t pastor them, nor bring any closer to knowing and loving Jesus, because they couldn’t understand what he was saying!

In other words, it may have been the right words, but it was at the wrong time, to the wrong audience.

The greater difference between Peter in Acts, and the megaphone-toting, hellfire and damnation New Orleans street preacher, though, may be this:

  1. Peter was filled with — and controlled by — the Holy Spirit.
  2. Peter’s words came after some serious manifestation of “signs and wonders“, which, in and of itself, made believers out of non-believers.

In Acts 4:23-31, directly after this event — Peter healing the lame man and being detained by the religious leaders of the day for it, and for preaching the resurrection of the dead in Jesus — the believers gathered to pray for further boldness!

I need that.  I need all of that:

  1. The right timing,
  2. being filled with the Holy Spirit,
  3. participating in the miraculous,
  4. and more boldness.

I really don’t want a bad experience with someone who had only one of those four in operation — the boldness part — to… well… I don’t know how to put it.  I think what I have done for the last twenty years, is mostly be afraid that anything I say or do out of boldness will have the same negative effect on others that my own experience had on me.  Until now, I really haven’t pieced it all together that it wasn’t the boldness, per se, that was wrong.  It was not having the REST of the package in concert with the boldness.

Having all of it together is the difference, I now believe, between wounding others and revealing the true heart of God to them.

As I re-read what I’ve written above, it sounds like a no-brainer.  “Duh.  Of course you need the Holy Spirit in order to be effectively bold.”  But, I guess that’s what a revelation is all about:  Really sealing things that you may have heard a million times before, and to which you can make a quick mental assent, into a true thing that goes deep in your heart of hearts, so that it’s really REAL, in a way that it never was before.

So.  Now.  Instead of tentatively praying for boldness, afraid of what would happen if God actually GRANTED that prayer to me, I will not just pray for boldness, in and of itself.  I will pray for His timing, His presence, and His power to accompany that boldness, continually in my life.

It’s a good recipe, I think.  And may it bear, oh God, the same fruit that Peter and the apostles did.***

———————-

*To my mind, no two men did more to change the way orphans were treated in Victorian England — and to this day — than Charles Dickens (who raised awareness in a socially-palatable way) and George Müller, who actually DID something about the horrid state of orphanages.

**George hadn’t moved to England yet.

***Might as well start now with the bold requests, eh??  😉

Garden! Health! Books! Road trip! Working!

I really don’t have writer’s block.  I’ve written countless posts in my head!  They’re just not happening in real life.

So…  small updates:

  • They're even prettier in real life. I have some that are downright purple on the outside, but the interior is bright orange. Lovely!

    Garden:  It’s beautiful and flourishing, and it feels fabulous to eat my own hand-raised, organic veggies.  It is truly decreasing my need to buy vegetables from the store.  It has taken a while — more than a year — to really get GOING and productive.  And, I still have lots and lots and lots to learn… it’s one of those areas of learning where you can never know ALL there is to know.  Ever.  Interestingly, though, I don’t mind that.  Normally, I get a little cowed by problems with unending possible solutions;  I like things that I can wrap my head around.  However, I find that gardening is enjoyable even when I will never know everything there is to know.  My most recent discovery:  When the planting schedule says that you shouldn’t plant your green beans until March 15, February 20-something really IS too early, and your seeds really WILL rot in the ground when planted too soon.  Bummer.  A triumph, though:  My hubby is taking my gardening seriously.  I tend to get interested in things, and hit them hard for a few weeks or a few months, spend too much money on them, then my interest and devotion fizzles, which amounts to a lot of time and money wasted.  So, he wasn’t robustly supportive of my garden plans, initially.  Now, he TOTALLY is, probably because I’ve been faithful, instead of just excited.  🙂  And he can see the benefit.  Last garden note:  You MUST grow these carrots.  I scrub them and we eat them unpeeled.  They are gorgeous and tasty.

  • Fiala’s health:  I wish I could say that she is 100% better, but I can’t.  She does continue to improve, and it is absolutely clear that her major struggle IS with a candida infection.  However, it is taking longer to clear than I had hoped.  And, she is not self-regulating.  She is happy to “steal” a banana or a jar of honey, or even pull a carrot from the garden, whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Then, the yeast in her system feeds on that sugar, and we have a setback that takes a week or two from which to recover.  So, it’s kind of like three steps forward, two-and-a-half steps back.  She still has head-to-toe “eczema” — which really isn’t eczema — and it’s worse in some places than in others.  But, she has no open, oozy wounds, and over all, her skin, disposition, and general health has improved by, oh, about 40%.  She is on oral and topical Nystatin, plus probiotics, colloidal silver, and grapefruit seed extract (in capsules).  Plus a no-sugar diet, minus the 1/3 cup or so daily of blueberries — her lone joy in food.  Actually, it’s funny, because now that we’re aware that SUGAR in food is her main problem, I’ve been letting her sample various sugar- and starch-free foods, and she just doesn’t like most of them.  So, her diet is still very, very simple, very limited.
  • My own health:  I have improved SO GREATLY on a low-carb, sugar-free diet.  Not only have I lost about 15 lbs, but instead of getting neck-to-thighs hives every single night, that lasts for HOURS and to be relieved only by a double-dose of Benedryl, I’ll get a patch here, a patch there, about twice a week, and it lasts for 20-30 minutes or so.  So, I’m not 100% healed, either, but I’m getting close.
  • Books:  I should really do a whole post on “Books I’m Trying to Read.”  I normally only read one book at a time, but I’m partway through about six books right now, none of which I want to put down, and for none of which I actually have TIME to read right now.  The only one I’ve actually finished has been The Confession by Charles Todd (see next bullet point).  And that took me nearly two weeks of whittling away…  The others have taken — are taking, actually — much longer.
  • Road trip!  Two friends and I drove to Prescott a couple of weeks ago.  It was a treasure of an afternoon — such a pleasant drive of wonderful conversation, lunch together, then a really awesome two-hour meet-the-author presentation by Charles Todd, which is actually a mother-and-son team.  They were both present, and were such engaging speakers.  It was interesting from all angles:  as a writer, as someone interested in WWI (the setting for all their books), as a semi-Anglophile, as a fan…  I’ve read all of their books, save one.  My friends and I had lunch was at The Raven Cafe.  I had researched which places had a gluten-free menu, and when we got to Prescott, my friend Kathy said, “After lunch, I hope we have time for the best cup of coffee in Prescott.  It’s at The Raven.”  The Raven was already on my short list of g.f. lunch spots!!  It has such wonderful ambiance, and it stocks GLUTEN FREE BREAD.  With my low-carbiness, I haven’t had bread in a couple of months.  But, I broke with that for an amazing turkey melt sandwich with avocado, muenster cheese, and other good things, with a side of amazing sweet potato fries with garlic aioli.  I was in heaven.  The whole afternoon, I was in heaven.  It was perfect.  Kathy kept saying, “Is this really real?  Is this really happening?  Am I really in Prescott with two of my dear friends???”  Now, I think I need to come up with more reasons to take little drives and spend a good chunk of a day with my friends.  The whole experience is still glowing in my heart, two weeks later.
  • Jobby-things:  I know a while back I said I wasn’t going to make any writing-related work, but I had already told my author-friend Marietta I’d give her most recent book my once-over.  So, I’ve been working on that.  I also co-taught a small workshop on prophetic singing, which was a complete and total joy.  I was absolutely shocked when I was handed a check for payment.  It was a little disturbing, actually.  I had to ask my pastor what he thought I should do with the money, and he said, “Keep it.  You’ve invested hours of your time and commitment learning about this, making the teaching notes, investing in the prophetic and singing.  Keep it and enjoy the fruits of your labor.”  So, I am.  Haven’t cashed it yet, though.

When prophetic words go wrong….

Earlier this month, I posted on an encounter I had with the Holy Spirit in January, which — among other things — involved prophetic words delivered to me by a number of individuals.  A few comments — and a few private notes to me on the subject — prompted me to consider writing about “Why prophetic words aren’t always fulfilled.”  As I formed the post in my mind, I thought, “I’ll have Kathy look it over before I post it.”  Then, I had a better idea.  Why not just ask Kathy to write it in the first place???

Kathy Beal heads up the thriving and active prophetic ministry at our church, Vineyard Phoenix.  She also leads and teaches with the International Prophetic Community.  She has a lovely, insightful blog at Wisdom Town.  I have known Kathy for nearly 20 years, and have considered her an inspiration, a teacher, a mentor, and a precious friend.  I am confident that, no matter your interest level in the prophetic, you will find something of value in this thoughtful, wise post.

Prophetic Unfulfillment
by Kathy Beal

What a delightful opportunity to address the question of why some prophetic words go (seemingly) unfulfilled. I’ve participated in a prophetic ministry for over twenty five years, and have carried responsibility for training others in the prophetic both in my local church and in other nations. Suffice it to say, I’ve talked to a LOT of people about this question. Through all the years, in all the locations, I find the problem usually boils down to one of the following areas:

Who gave the prophetic word? Personally, I would just not open my spirit to receive a prophetic word from someone who is not planted in a local church. I want to know that any person “prophesying” to me is well known in their local church and that their ministry is under the covering of a Godly pastor. I would go so far as to ask: Who can I talk to about your ministry? Who holds you accountable for accuracy and character? If they can’t answer this, with accompanying names/church location/contact information, then I’m not integrating the prophetic word into my life. If it does contain some accuracy, I may note it. I may share it with my own pastoral covering, for their input. I may wait for confirmation from the Lord. But I won’t be holding my breath. If you receive a prophetic word from an untested, “wild card” of a person, don’t be surprised if it goes unfulfilled.

It is just the simple truth that some folks believe they have a prophetic “anointing” because they can flatter people well. They can garner a little attention, get a little following, and feed their egos through manipulating people. It is a wise thing to discern true spiritual authority, humble character and pure motive from such “players.” You will protect yourself from much harm.

Discerning the soul from the spirit: The truth is, all of us can get worked up in our emotions. I’ve talked to so many people who became ensnared by their own immature desire for something. Sometimes it is a “thing” – i.e., a person, position, provision, etc., Sometimes it is the timing of the fulfillment of that desire. When we want something really badly, we tend to exchange “wishing” for the truth. It goes something like this:

“I really wanted to get married, and that guy prophesied to me that it would happen in the next year. So when it didn’t I stopped believing that God cares about how lonely I am.”

“And why did you believe that you could trust the timing part of that prophetic word?”

“I don’t know. Didn’t the guy prophesy from God?”

“Was there any confirmation from any pastor, or any spiritually mature person who is involved in your life and caring for your spiritual health?”

“No.”

“So how do you know if that was really a word from God?”

“Well – it was what I really, really wanted.”

There is something I call “magic fairy dust” – and it is the enemy of a true prophetic word.

Prophecy is hearing the mind and heart of Jesus for a particular situation, and speaking what we hear. Prophecy is not discerning a need, and tickling a person’s ear with the promise that the need will be met in a particular way, or in a particular time. In our relationship with a Savior who fervently loves us, is ardently desirous of meeting our needs in His timing, in His resource, and in a method which includes character development and cementing our dependence on Him – there is no magic fairy dust. There is nothing we can sprinkle on each other that, when it lands on our eager hands and sparkles in the moment, transfers – poof – a trial, longing, or need into a fairy tale solution. It just doesn’t work that way.

Jesus offers us the Truth. He is the Truth. It is in HIM that we get the (sometimes painful, difficult, challenging) truth that sets us free.

We want relief. He wants maturity.

Sometimes, a prophetic word evaporates in the harsh light of day. Why? Because it was never a true prophetic word in the first place. It was something else.

How do we discern the difference? Here are a few questions to ask:

  1. Did the prophecy cause me to focus on Jesus, the word itself, or the giver?
  2. Did the prophecy pass the test of time? Did time prove its accuracy?
  3. Did the prophecy cause a desire to rise up in me for the character response required to see the thing fulfilled? Or, was it delivered as a simple “just sit back honey, and wait to see your dreams come true.”
  4. Have I been giving my due diligence to seek after God? Do I seek Him with all my heart? Do I spend regular time seeking to deeply understand His Scripture, and how I can live it out obediently?
  5. Is there ongoing sin in my life about which I’m unwilling to repent? Anything I refuse to give up? Something I know God asks me not to do in His Word – but I don’t want to think about it? Truthfully, am I opening a door to the enemy, to his deception? If so – I may very well welcome a soulish word.
  6. Did the person usurp my own, or another’s authority? Is their motive clear? Are they, and am I, willing to be accountable for how the word was given, and received? Is Godly authority involved in this process?

If we go back to our example above, it would be wise to carefully, lovingly ask the still-single person something like:

 “What have you been doing to demonstrate faithfulness to God for what He currently has on your plate? How about that anger issue your pastor has been trying to help you with? Is there progress?”

It’s very, very possible that God is holding back the marriage partner because He knows that the still-single’s anger problem would destroy the desired marriage. Honestly, the loving, truthful input of a Godly friend is more useful to God’s purposes in our example’s life than a super-“spiritual” unknown “prophet.” We can prophesy to one another, humbly, truthfully…and remove mountains.

Scripture teaches us time and again to walk after the Spirit, not the flesh. We are to stand in the counsel of God, to seek His face, to listen to His voice, to pray continually…. To skimp on these things opens the door to the flesh, and to the enemy’s influence in our ministries. Too many people have been deeply hurt by spiritual laziness that led to false prophecies.

It’s often about time. I’ve learned that God loves to use time. Time is not God’s enemy; it is His friend. With time, God can test our faith, arrange circumstances so that He ensures the most glory for Himself, grow and mature character in us, deepen our patience, fill the gap between longing and fulfillment with His own Presence, and tie up details with a bow. Sometimes, a prophetic word was indeed the heart and mind of Jesus for a particular situation, but time has not yet proven its accuracy. If you surrender the thing to God, act on the character issues required, and stand fast in prayer – time is on your side. Rest in Him while you continue to wait on Him.

Invitation and not pronouncement. Prophecies are invitations from God, and not, necessarily, pronouncements. Many times I’ve seen God call something out in a human heart that the human had never (or only lightly) considered. Those people that responded to the word with faith – the kind of faith that invested with “watering the seed” – enjoyed the fruit of that word, in time.

People that don’t respond with faith and obedience don’t reap fulfillment.

If we don’t apply ourselves with the character requirements, accountability, faith and obedience God requires…then we can say “it was not an accurate word” – but we may discover the problem was with us, not the word.

Relationship is required for trustworthy revelation. Jesus prioritized relationship with Him. See Him first, and then trust Him to release the right revelation, at the right time, through servants (or methods) He chooses. The prophetic “package” includes revelation, interpretation, and application. Revelation is what He releases (through His servants, through dreams, through that “inner knowing”, through His Word…), interpretation is how we are to understand what we hear, and application is what we do with what we hear. In our local ministry, we are very firm about keeping all revelation under authority. Why? Because you need the protective measures of loving authority, and caring community around you to properly walk out a prophetic package. You may receive revelation, but you interpret it incorrectly. And/or, you may apply it clumsily. Every single one of us is most in danger when we abandon the healthy accountability of the local church and its accompanying Godly relationships. Accurate, life building prophetic ministry requires relationship first with the Shepherd of our souls, and secondly, with those who bow the knee to Him. We need people around us who have paid the price for wisdom and counsel so they can help us interpret and apply revelation in our particular circumstances. God designed it this way. Lone wolves are unhealthy, vulnerable wolves.

There is nothing more helpful than to walk through life in the company of a group of people who pursue God with all their hearts. When committed to such a group of people, we can rest assured that whatever revelation comes our way, the collective love and discernment of God’s friends will help us see truth from falsehood. We can trust that they will speak the truth we need to hear, help us with faith and obedience responses, call out growth in Christ-like character and provide the protection we need.

It is only in living our lives in humility, transparency, accountability, and submission in a healthy local church that we can accurately discern whether prophetic words given to us are truly from the heart and mind of Jesus, for us, in this particular situation.

There is no “easy” answer for testing prophetic words. It takes the whole package: God’s presence, His Word, and His church to discern the real deal from falsehood. The rewards are very much worth it. So much so, I wouldn’t choose any other way.

 

What God spoke to me.

I was recently thinking that, for all I have disclosed on this blog over the last 6+ years, so much of the most significant events in my life go unrecorded.  Some things are inappropriate to share, some defy my attempts at explanation, some I just never get around to…

I’ve been considering that anew, this last week.  I just don’t even know if I could — or perhaps even should — convey all that happened to me.  It’s hard to explain.

New Irish friend Azman & me, having a really good conversation.

The short version is that I went to a three-day International Leadership Summit — a retreat in the cool pines of Prescott, Arizona.  Back down the hill into the Valley of the Sun, the following day, is what we call International Super Sunday, with an extended church service in the morning, and a nearly five-hour event at night that features a dinner, some amazing speaking, and worship, followed up by a prophetic presbytery, where leaders with prophetic gifting (30ish or so) will give a personal prophetic word to anyone who wants one, and pretty much all the attendees want one.  🙂  Or two.  Or three.  Or as many as there is time for.

My love and me, taken by a different new Irish friend, Claire... I don't look this good in real life. 🙂 Bless God for the occasional use of makeup and supportive undergarments.

The whole Leadership Summit started about 15 years ago with just the leadership team of my own church — 20-30 good folk (and their spouses, as appropriate, most of whom are also leaders) who lead a specific area of ministry within the church.  Then, we expanded to invite a few of the pastors/leaders of various international ministries/churches with whom we minister, or over whom we have some apostolic leadership.  (See?  I bet I just lost a good 50% of you with that last sentence, and I’m just not going to explain it, either.  Unless you ask.)

Of the Summit — which is three jam-packed, meaty days of teaching, worship, and ministry, the most significant to me was Friday night.  On that night, I was praying for some friends when the Holy Spirit came powerfully upon me.  At first, I just bent over and put my hands on my thighs, kind of holding myself up.  Then, I sat.  After a while, I had to lie down.  It wasn’t that sort of dramatic thing you may have heard about (and which I repeatedly have witnessed) where the Holy Spirit performs a “smack down” and a person slumps to the floor or falls backward.  It was a little more subtle than that.  But not by much.

For… a time… at least more than an hour, but I don’t know how long, I was prayed over and ministered to, both by my dear, dear friends… co-workers in Christ… and by the Holy Spirit.  I was trembly, deep in my core and up into my shoulders and arms, as the Holy Spirit was on me.  My abs are still sore, nearly a week later, I was shaking so long.

Everyone who yields to the Holy Spirit and comes under His power finds a different experience.  Some shake violently.  Some laugh.  Some weep.  Some experience a profound calm.  Another dear friend, Paul Min, an apostolic 77-year-old powerhouse from Irvine, California (originally from South Korea), experiences his legs shaking, and he knows the power of God is residing in him.  I tend to quiver/convulse in my core.  It’s been like that for my whole life.

I know that a great many of you may think that odd and/or unbelievable, and that you’d not care for it, and you’re having second thoughts about me, right about now.  Frankly, that doesn’t matter so much.  Well, the part that doesn’t matter is what you think of me.  It does matter a great deal to me how you consider the God of all creation.  But, you can think I’m a looney, and I’m all right with that.  Even if you stop reading my blog.  😉

Anyone who has read here for any length of time is well-aware that I’m a Christian;  I don’t hide that, though not every post is about JESUS JESUS JESUS.  It’s more like, “This is my life, and Jesus is an integral part of it, of me.”  I often don’t want to post on the more God-oriented events of my life, because its so hard to communicate effectively and so easily misunderstood.  But, I felt like this last week was too significant to just pass by.

See what I mean by that first paragraph?

So.  What happened to me in that time can be broken down into

  1. What others prayed over me.
  2. What the Holy Spirit spoke directly to me.

In the past, when I “go down” under the power of the Spirit, I — to my remembrance — have never heard His specific, direct words.  Instead, what I usually experience is more like a… sense, an overwhelming sense of whatever it is I need most at the time:  His love, His power, His mercy, His forgiveness, His whatever.  This time was different in that I felt very strongly that I heard His voice.  It wasn’t loud.  More than a whisper, but not loud.  But, there were some specific things, some specific words and thoughts that I have never had, on my own, and I feel very strongly that they were beyond “impressions”;  they were the Word of God, to me, addressing some very specific needs.

Another thing that was different…  Sometimes, I have become a wee bit confused over others’ prayers over me.  Everyone, even those with maturity, doesn’t always hear from God 100% right, and the things that come out of their mouths aren’t always the pure, unadulterated Word of God.  For that reason, Scripture teaches us to “weigh carefully” what is spoken by prophecy.  In the past, I’ve had some difficulty at times, sorting out what’s what.  This time, among the 7+ people who prayed over me, and the many things that were spoken, there were two specific instances where God said, “That’s immature and inaccurate.  You can toss that.”  And silently, I returned prayer for the the person who was praying, thanking God for their willingness to minister and pray, but asking Him to increase the clarity of their spiritual ears, so that in the future, they could pray with more effectiveness.  It is my observation that in situations like that, the pray-er is often speaking out of what they know about that person, and their own personal views, rather than led by the Holy Spirit.  That doesn’t make God’s word less powerful, though those who minister prophetically should be continually seeking greater clarity, accuracy, and maturity.  I Corinthians 13:8-10 tells us “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”

When the whole Friday night episode was over, I got up and wrote down everything I could remember.

Here are some of the things that God showed me — I’m not sharing everything.  Some of it is too personal, and some of it doesn’t quite make sense to me, and I have to hash it out, to seek God on it, still:

  • God showed me that some of the interests I have pursued — specifically writing and birthing stuff — I have done because I am afraid that I am too old to have prophetic singing/worship stuff fulfilled in me, things that have been prayed and spoken over me repeatedly — countless times — for the last 20+ years.  Writing and birthing are not bad and they may be pursued later, but for the right reasons, not out of fear or distraction.
  • I am to go to bed when my husband Martin does.  He is an early riser and I’ve always been a night owl.  In addition, I am an introvert, and I crave that time, late at night, when the house is still and no one needs me.  That is my “recharge” time.  However, it saddens my husband that I will not go to bed with him when he does, except maybe once a week.  I have thought he’s unreasonable/uncaring that he wants me do do/be something I’m not, and he thinks that I am unreasonable/uncaring because I won’t value his tender heart and the fact that he is restless until I come to bed.  I have been beyond stubborn, when what I really need to do is to obey.  I need to value him.  It is a “little” point of contention to me, but it is HUGE to my husband.  God the father affirmed to me that He will take care of things I fear I will lose in the process, and will make their replacement worthwhile.
  • I must be intentionalabout investing in both my guitar-playing and my singing.  I am a fair guitar-player and I have a great voice.  I’m not bragging;  it was a gift of God that I’ve known about since my early childhood.  However, for my whole life, I’ve just been expecting God to DO SOMETHING about my voice, with my voice.  And He has, to an extent.  I am one of the core vocalists on my precious church’s worship team.  I lead worship (playing guitar and singing) weekly in a home group.  I am one of the three worship leaders for our church’s 6-12 year-olds.  I have been maturing and growing in spontaneous prophetic singing.  Yet, I know that that is not all God has in store for me.  I know I’m not living up to my potential, to His calling in me.  However, I have just expected Him to drop some bomb, some opportunity, to hit me over the head with some profound and specific direction, and He hasn’t done that.  He said that, instead, I need to be intentional about working that gift, investing in it, prioritizing it, furthering it, developing skill…  I totally have NOT done that in the past.  I’ve just coasted on what I have.  To that end, He gave me two imperatives:
    • I am to play guitar and sing for a minimum of an hour, daily.  If I do other things — read, blog, pursue other interests, etc. — it is to be after that hour is completed.
    • I am to take a voice class.  (I’m not sure why about this one, and I have looked into it — the community college that is very close to my home, however, is an extension campus, and does not have voice.  The other location is REALLY far away, spring classes have already started, and the schedule doesn’t seem like it would work at all.  So, I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that.)
  • I felt indescribably strongly that smallish but mighty Vineyard Phoenix, my home church for 17+ years, will always be my Favorite House.  With capital letters.  My husband just got done reading a book by Tommy Tenney called God’s Favorite House.  I have not read it, though I know it is about building the local body of Christ, the local church.  I was FILLED with love and thankfulness and tenderness for the people who have poured themselves out for the Kingdom, for Jesus, and for me personally.  Even though about half (or more?) of those at the Summit were from other nations, those who prayed for me on Friday night — minus one — were all from my local church, Vineyard Phoenix.  I felt that was specific and intentional.  I have long loved the people of my church, especially those on the leadership team, with whom I have served for these many years, and whose pure, vibrant hearts for ministry and the  Gospel of Jesus I have been endless witness to.  But, especially on Friday night, I was filled with a… beyond-strong love for each.  Vicious, almost.  Abandoned, intense, jealous over, consuming, zealous love for my co-laborers in Christ.

I was going to next describe the things that were prayed over me by individuals, but I think that, instead, I will save that for next time.

Until then…  🙂  My love to all readers who have made it thus far.

Just about everything but parenting

  • Writing:  If you have read here for a while, you may remember that much of my 2010 and part of 2011 was taken up with ghostwriting a book.  The book is now available for sale — here at Brushed by God — and soon elsewhere.  🙂
  • School:  During the school year, it seems like a genius plan to work for six weeks then take off a week.  With these regular breaks, my house gets clean, special trips happen, everyone breathes a deep breath.  But, ’round about this time of year, when just about everyone else is done with school and we still have four weeks left, it seems less than brilliant.  We’re not finished until June 10.
  • Garden:  Thanks to repaired irrigation tubing and some short, cute fencing, my garden now really looks like a garden, according to my husband who blessedly did the irrigation and fence work.  🙂  However, the fence does not keep out our dog, who has an odd — and maddening — affinity for corn plants.  My corn, some of them 18″ high, does not like it, either.  The garden sits in a side yard, and we may have to run a sturdier barrier from house to side-fence to make the garden dog-proof.  Otherwise, the garden is taking spectacular shape.
  • Fitness:  I am now feeling stronger after nearly three weeks of hiking 3.5 miles, three times a week.  This makes me happy.  My “fat” jeans are looser, too, even though I’ve really lost no weight.  I guess that’s from muscle gain?  I don’t know.
  • My bodybuilding cousin Romney, military wife and mother of two.

    Random extended family thoughts:  I’ve been reflecting on how widely differing my extended family is.  It’s really a cross-section of American society in general…  Just amongst my cousins (including both sides of my family), one is a nun, one is gay, another just placed fourth in a body-building competition — it has been interesting to watch her really transform in the last 18 months,  one is a single dad, one lives in a neo-hippie commune, one is teaching English in Japan, one is a theater professor, some are academics, some are blue-collar workers, some are Christians (in various manifestations), some are pagan, some are married, some not…  Lots of really disparate interests and paths of life.  I find it really fascinating.  Are most families similar to mine in their dissimilarities??  I don’t think there’s enough closeness in my extended family, and I’m sure there’s some cause-and-effect somewhere in there, but I’m not sure of the root…  I’m sure I’m part of the problem, too, sadly.

  • Church stuff:  Over the summer, I’ll be attending a Beth Moore Bible study (the updated version of Breaking Free).  Yesterday, my pastor’s wife asked me if I would, during one of the weeks’ meetings, give a little testimony based on the story I wrote last week, on the story of my son Wesley’s life, and how God really saved my life (literally) through him, when I thought it would kill me.  I was really pleased with her request.  I printed out and edited the original story because I have to hold it to seven minutes, which required me to cut it roughly in half.  That’s OK.  My writing is generally too bloated and filled with unnecessary asides, anyway.  I have pared.  🙂
  • Household stuff:  My hubby installed a “new” microwave over the weekend.  Our “old” one was just 5½ years old, but literally falling apart —  the vent broke off and had already been replaced (then broke again), the door handle completely broke off…  Replacing the door was going to cost us nearly $200.  Ack!  We couldn’t do that.  Thankfully, he works for a homebuilder, and we were able to get one out of a model home for less than half of retail.  Cool!  So, it’s five years old or so, but it’s never been used.  A friend of ours has the same model and is very happy with it.  I now have to figure out how best to clean stainless steel, as it is the first stainless appliance in our home.  Small complaint, though;  I’m happy to have a functional microwave.
  • Birds:  A Northern Cardinal (and today, his mate) has been visiting my back yard for the last three mornings.  Cardinals are not rare in the Phoenix area, but they are uncommon, and in the 5+ years we’ve been in our home, this is the first time that we’ve had a daily visitor.  Mr. Cardinal has pleasantly interrupted my mornings.  🙂
  • Other cardinals:  My husband was asked to design a home — like a manse — for a cardinal in California.  I’m very proud of him.  It’s a modest 1600 s.f. house on a very narrow lot.  My man is brilliant and thinks in 3D.  He whipped out the plan in one day.
  • My mother:  In sad news, my mom is back in the hospital.  I can’t remember how much I blogged about it last year, but in July, we nearly lost her.  She has Marfan Syndrome, and her skeleton is collapsing, which has given her decreased space for her lungs (and other organs).  Additionally, half of her diaphragm is paralyzed.  Then, she got double pneumonia.  She recovered, to our great relief.  She is a stubborn lady, and that can pay dividends when fighting illness.  She has lost a tremendous amount of weight and is very frail, and has been placed on oxygen “as needed”.  In the last month or so, her need for oxygen has been 24/7, with her oxygen saturation dipping into the 60% range or even down to 50% if she’s off of oxygen for even a short while.  After a doctor appointment yesterday, the doctor sent her straight to the E.R.  She has double pneumonia again, and is correspondingly hypoxic.  She was supposed to have major surgery (an estimated 12 hour ordeal) on the 25th of this month to resection her spine and to put in metal supports inside her ribcage area.  This is a risky procedure even for a healthy person;  for her, the doctors had given about a 60% chance for surviving surgery, mostly because of the extremely mushy shape of her arteries — she’s had two AAA repairs and one femoral artery replaced already due to aneurysms.  However, the surgery is really her only hope — aside from miraculous healing — for longer-term survival, since right now, she’s slowly being suffocated.  With this bout of pneumonia, the doctors have indefinitely shelved the surgery.  She’s crushed about that, but — unlike past stays — she’s relieved to be back in the hospital.  Normally, she is an unwilling patient.  I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or not that she’s happy to be in the hospital.  Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

Things I thought I’d be able to do while my husband was in Northern Ireland for a week

Things I thought I’d be able to do while my husband was in Northern Ireland for a week*:

  1. Read a lot:  Finish the book I’m working on, plus read the next one in the series.
  2. Blog more.  Maybe every day!
  3. Color my hair.
  4. Clean the whole house.
  5. Take my kids out for the day to the river.

Things I actually got done:

  1. Color my hair.
  2. Take my kids (plus one friend) out for the day to the river.

I don’t know why I thought I would have so much free time on my hands.  It totally didn’t work out like that.  Most nights found me collapsing somewhere at 9:30 or 10, too tired to even think enough to read.  But, I couldn’t sleep.  Most nights, I was up until 1 or 2 a.m., just tossing restlessly, or trying to read.  The whole week my husband was gone, I read a grand total of about 20 pages in my current book.  I blogged once.  I barely got the house straightened up for him, and didn’t deep clean anything.  We were doing school the whole time, and I still had other responsibilities — like leading worship in small group on Thursday night and in SuperChurch on Sunday morning — and we did spend an entire day at the river, so it wasn’t like I was sitting around doing nothing.  But, still.  Looking back, I’m not sure where I expected to find the time to do all the stuff that I thought I could do.

The whole time that he was gone, I wasn’t really tired, even though I was existing on 5-6 hours of sleep per night.  He’s been home two nights, and I’ve gotten 7-8 hours of sleep each night and am now EXHAUSTED.  I’m so tired.  I think it was that when he was gone, mentally, I just knew that the buck stopped with me, since my hubby was out of the country, and I had to be on my game.  Now that he’s home, I think I’m breathing such an internal sigh of relief that my body just wants to go hibernate.

—————–

*He was leading worship for several meetings/seminars/church services/etc.  He rocked.

Rolling back the stone

Many of you know I lead worship for a small group — a weekly Bible study & worship & hangin’ out group that meets in someone’s home.  I play guitar and sing.  I play only fair-to-middlin’, and am a lot more confident in my voice than I am in my guitar playing.

I couldn't find any pics of myself playing guitar and singing, so you can have one of my handsome hubby, instead. I love this picture.

Last year, and earlier this year, the leaders of those two groups to which I was assigned were the epitome of Laid-Back Leaders… just going with the flow, “it’s all good” kind of guys, pretty much just letting me do my thing, untouched and uncommented-upon, apart from an occasional nugget of encouragement.  The last month?  Not so much.  Doug, who is very dear to my heart, is also an exacting leader, always looking for the way up and the way on, for the group, for himself, and for the worship leader.  🙂  I find this both very compelling and very terrifying.  I don’t really relish being inspected and found wanting.  Yet… I truly want to grow and do better and learn and participate in what the Holy Spirit is doing, and specifically to be unified with Doug as he leads the group.

After last week’s group, he said, rather casually, and in front of a couple of people, “Hey, we need to talk.  I’d like to know how you think worship is going.”  We chatted a bit, and I told him that really, what I thought didn’t matter all that much, because my perspective on myself can be skewed, and as he’s the leader, I’m a lot more interested in what he thinks, rather than in self-evaluation.  We made a plan to talk before the next week’s meeting.

In the intervening days, I became increasingly uneasy.  What could he want to talk about?  I’ve been leading worship regularly for… four years now, I think, and if I’m lacking in anything, I don’t know if I have the ability to step it up!  What if he requires something out of me that I’m unable to do?  He probably will.  I’ll just have to tell him that my skill is not all that great and I just can’t do it, whatever “it” is.

Then came Sunday.

Sunday morning’s message from my pastor, Dennis Bourns, centered on the story of Lazarus’ ressurection.  Frankly, I don’t recall exactly what the aim of his sermon was — I think it was about how Jesus cares, in spite of how circumstances may appear, and his apparently slow timing (I should listen to the message again!!).  However, what the Holy Spirit spoke to me through it was this:  Let’s roll back the stone and call to life the things that are dead! For me, this was specifically related to my impending convo with Doug.  If he was going to call things out of me, to call me further up and further in, even if those things were dead, I was going to willingly participate in the process.  I was reminded of the power of Jesus, who calls things that are not as if they were, and who calls the dead to life, in all manner of functions.

So, Doug telephoned on Wednesday.  Instead of my “I just can’t do it” preamble, I encouraged him to call whatever in me that was dead, to life.  He said something like, “Well, in that case… everything you’re doing is wrong, and nothing is working…”

He was joking.

Perhaps all my agonizing and my peremptory speech was unnecessary, because everything that he addressed — five things — were more functional than skill-based.  More like, “How about shorter intros to the songs?” and… “When we’re coming out of ministry and about to enter snack time, maybe ramp up the tempo of your playing a bit so that we’re not heading in to snack time on such a low and introspective note.”  That sort of thing.  Everything he mentioned, I could totally do.  Well, one thing is a bit of a stretch, but not much.  Very do-able.

So, all that trepidation for nothing.

Well, not nothing.  I think God wanted to bring me to a place where I was confident in His ability to create something from nothing, in me…

I feel like I passed a test.  Not with flying colors, not with 100%, but definitely a pass, and not a fail.

Ten years ago, maybe even five, I’m pretty certain I would have flipped out, sunk into a depression, responded with defensiveness, despaired, perhaps lashed out at Doug…  By the grace of God, I did none of that.  I’m not all that thrilled with growing old, but growing more mature is definitely good.

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