When We Suffer…

0B84E5C8-7E37-4A00-956A-080E2B22FE97But God is the God of the waves and the billows, and they are still His when they come over us; and again and again we have proved that the overwhelming thing does not overwhelm. Once more by His interposition deliverance came. We were cast down, but not destroyed.”

~Amy Carmichael

 Amy Carmichael was a young single woman alive to the love of Jesus and the mission she was called to at the turn of the last century.  She served Him in Southern India, rescuing very young girls from the evil practice of prostitution at the Hindu temples. Eventually she rescued boys, growing her little family to over a thousand children.

One night while walking in the dark, she tripped over a hole in the ground and severely injured her leg. Her injury was not fixable with the medical treatment that was available to her.  She was bedridden for the last twenty years of her life- quarantined.

Despite her injury and constant agony and pain, she ran the orphanage and published around 35 books, without the internet, computer or even a typewriter.

God used Amy in amazing ways.  Her work in Southern India continues to this day.

She chose Jesus when all else looked helpless.  She served God and the people around her wholeheartedly. She said often that her missionary work was nothing else but a chance to die– die to self and be alive in Jesus.

I think of Amy often, I have studied her life for years.  I cannot count the number of times I have said to myself, “Amy did it. So can I.” Her life is a symbol to me of Jesus’ love and wholehearted devotion in the midst of extreme suffering.  It wasn’t difficult for her to talk to others about the love and grace of Jesus, she saw him in her suffering, because of her suffering, and the suffering of the women and children around her.

Often in difficult times, we see God moving more; People’s hearts are more open.  Hardship breeds longing for assurance and hope. There is a commonality in the face of suffering that does not happen in any other way.

You have the best message in the world! God is real! Jesus is alive! The Holy Spirit is Hope!

God the Father will take care of you.  Jesus is your friend, forever with you, and the Holy Spirit alive in you will give you the wisdom and strength you need for each new day.

We struggle, but we press on.  We are cast down, but we will not be destroyed. God will take care of you.

“Look at the birds of the air. They don’t plant or gather crops. They don’t put away crops in storerooms. But your Father who is in heaven feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? Can you add even one hour to your life by worrying” ~Jesus

The Welcoming Prayer

img_4371Who would have guessed even a month ago that our whole planet would jolt and be forever changed?  Not me. COVID-19, the Coronavirus, is now a trending word worldwide.  It feels like the whole world has changed overnight..

In one day, one hour, Maddie and Whitney lost their last semester of their junior and sophomore year at k-state.  They both lost their jobs at the preschool they worked at together.   They went from growing independence to dependence.  Belle can’t go back to school either, the rest of her freshman year in high school over in a snap.  I asked her this morning how her and her friends were feeling about it, and she said, “None of us knows what to do or how to feel”. All of their hang out places and spaces are gone.  Parents don’t want groups of kids at their house, so that’s out too.

As a mom, it hurts my heart so much to see what the girls have worked so hard for be put out in a second, without much direction or comfort in knowing what lies ahead.    These losses hurt.

I find myself thinking that despite all of it, our own losses are nothing.  Absolutely nothing compared to what many are going through right now.  We have a home.  We have food. We are reasonably healthy.  We have enough. We truly have so much to be grateful for.  Gratitude lists are so important in times of crisis and chaos.

While yes, we do have all those things, along with the hope Jesus gives, there is still a whole lot of room for grief.  We are not heroes if we don’t grieve or allow some sadness to surface.  Putting on a happy face despite all that is churning beneath the surface is not always helpful.

In my own circles, I can see and feel a rage growing in people.  Hoarding, complaining, menacing, arguing, etc. are all reactions to fear and sadness. It’s important for all of us to steward those feelings and recognize what is causing them.  The Welcoming Prayer is something that I turn to when what is happening around me is confusing. I welcome all of it, knowing that everything that happens to me is something I can learn from, and grow because of.

The Welcoming Prayer is a method of consenting to God’s presence and action in our physical and emotional reactions to events around us. The purpose of the Welcoming Prayer is to deepen our relationship with God through consenting in everything that happens to us and around us.

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen

~Thomas Keating

Grief does not cancel out gratitude.  Grief is a feeling; it is not regulated or to be dismissed by us or anyone.  We all handle grief differently.  For me, it’s going on a walk, solitude, sorting it out in my head before processing with anyone. In those times I can “Welcome” what it is that I am feeling and thinking, and begin to sort through my emotions, thoughts and feelings.    For Belle, it’s singing at the top of her lungs while driving down a long road with some friends.  For my older girls, it’s sitting in their newly established independence, just being with their people in their grief, comforting one another by just being.

What I think is most important right now is to remember that Jesus, our lord and savior, the king of the universe, was called “A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”(Isaiah 53:3)

Our Jesus knows what it is to hurt, to lose what is most important, to weep. He weeps with us as there is suddenly so much grief and loss in our world.   Know that in your own losses you are not alone.  Literally the world grieves with you.  Jesus sees and cares.  He has so much love to give. 

What we know about God in times of Trouble

A worldwide pandemic is a pretty big deal. I’m not exactly panicking, but certainly a little on edge and cautious. In these very troubled times, we can still have a very great peace. We can hope. We can trust. Here’s what we know about God because we are God’s children. He never changes, even when the whole world is changing.

God is our comfort. He is our protector.

“He will cover you with his wings, and under his wings you will find refuge.”Psalm 90:1

God knows what we do not and cannot know.

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”Jeremiah 33:3

God is the source of our strength and rest.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31

We can trust God. He is our refuge.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge”Psalm 62:5-8

Nothing, absolutely NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35,37-39

Take heart. God is on your side. ❤️

The Flowing Grace of Now

IMG_9912I will never forget the impact of the words flowing over and into me as my friend read me quotes from Macrina’s book a few years ago. I was at a place and space in my life where I needed input, healing and direction.  Somehow, her words landed in my soul, sunk deeply, and took root.  I was on a personal retreat so I bought Macrina’s book Seasons of Your Heart and was drawn in immediately and intensely.

I was mesmerized by both her writing style, and the depth of Macrina’s own thoughts.  In my own way, I recognized her soul’s thoughts as very similar to my own.  Her writing style, so very similar to my own.  I needed to learn more from this woman.  I had found a new mentor from afar.

I stalked Macrina on Facebook and was quite surprised when she accepted my friend request.  I am sure I wrote her an incredibly overbearing and animated messages, trying not to sound like a stalker, but assert myself so she knows I’m serious voice. I tried to convey to her what her work meant to me.  Macrina was patient and kind in response, so I asked her if I prsumptively could come visit her.  Again, much to my surprise and joy, a friend and I went to visit her and learn from her just a few months later on a retreat.

Macrina is a Benedictine Monk, living in St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith Arkansas.  I had never met a monk, let alone one who was a woman. I had no idea that was a thing.  She explained to me that they are Monastics, Thus “Monks” in the Benedictine tradition.

I soaked up everything Macrina had to teach me, in her patient and kind way.  She laughs so well and is so fun to be around.  I learned silence and solitude from her. I learned that life, in all its twists and turns, ups and downs is always there to teach us and point us to God. Even our character flaws can teach us, she taught me. Once we acknowledge their existence, we can begin to be honest and grow from there.

Over the years, I’ve been to a few of Macrina’s retreats, and have developed a true friendship with her.  I was so excited to find out that she was working on a new book called

The Flowing Grace of Now.

The premise of her book is this: The teachers we can learn from are often the ones we normally want to shrug off, ignore, or hide because of shame or pride. Some of the voices are more positive and familiar to us.  What if we tuned in and truly welcomed these teachers, asked God what he was trying to teach us through them, and then listen and wait?

Here is an excerpt from Macrina’s book The Flowing Grace Of Now.

Here is an exercise in humility you might want to try sometime this week—perhaps every day this week. Use your imagination and throw a banquet for the crippled, blind, and lame parts of yourself. Invite your doubts, your pride, and your superiority and arrogance. Invite your resentments, your selfishness, your narrow-mindedness, and your prejudice. In all probability, you won’t find any of these invited guests trying to claim the first place. They will more likely all climb into the chair reserved for you. Here is one last suggestion. Treat each of these guests with reverence. Try to discover what this invitee is to teach you. O lavish Caregiver, Each day I am invited to your feast of life. Teach me to be grateful as I take my place at the table of plenty. Show me how to honor even my faults. They teach me humility. They have the potential of being transformed into something beautiful. They can become my teachers. May I learn to listen to my life. Your teacher for the week will be the crippled and lame parts of yourself. Our faults and weaknesses can become our best teachers. Choose one each day this week. Try to discern why it is a part of your life.

 Macrina’s book takes the reader through the weeks of the year, with a suggestion of a “teacher” for each of those weeks.  Her insights are powerful and help me center my soul, focus again on Jesus and remember that all of life is here to learn from.  I highly suggest this wonderful book! Macrina is a beautiful person and a wonderful friend to all who turn the pages of her books.IMG_2331

Hearing God’s Voice

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Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

How to Share Words From God in a safe, wholesome, God-honoring way.

The one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3).

Prophecy. Pretty much every time I think of the word, I think of some negative or scary thing someone has told me came from God, such as, “God told me you are supposed to be in charge of women’s ministry” or God says he will heal you if you only lay down your need for control” It’s unfortunate that I think that is pretty much everyone’s response when they hear that word. It’s weird, almost creepyish and definitely very old-testament-ish.

One time when I was in high school, a friend invited me and my best friend Lisa to her youth group since she always visited ours and we had never been to hers.  When We got there, all seemed normal. There was a worship time, a small teaching time, and then…. the talk about gifts of the Holy Spirit took a wild turn.  The man stopped mid-sentence and blurted, “Wait. God is telling me something.  Everyone yelled their amen’s and praise the Lord’s.

My friend Lisa and I often talked abut God’s miracles and loved him with all of our hearts.  We were wholehearted believers.  But…this man went from a quiet whisper to a gigantic shouting preaching voice in 3 seconds flat.  I startled a little, and so did Lisa. He started yelling, “God is telling me that some of you all do not speak in tongues! How can you call yourselves worshippers of the Holy Spirit when you deny His power and language? How can you communicate the deep things of the spirit without the language of the holy one?”

My friends and I were slightly amused, because we were sarcastic teenage girls. We nervously giggled.  The man pointed at me and Lisa and shouted, “YOU MUST REPENT, THUS SAYETH THE LORD OF HOSTS”.  Right after that, he continued in his very loud preacher voice, “Now…God is telling me that those of you who already have received a the gift of tongues, go stand against that wall… Shaking his head, he said, “I don’t know why he is sayingthat, but OBEY!  About seventy five percent of teenage boys and girls and adult youth group leaders clamored metal chairs and hustled to the wall.  He then said, “The Lord is telling me that all of you need to start speaking in tongues NOW!”

They all, in unison, began yelling, chanting, and raising each of their voices, louder than the next. The man, again, said, “You who are left…the Lord of hosts need you to RUN to the wall, partner up with ones speaking in tongues, and mimic every syllable that comes out of their mouths until you begin to flow in the Holy Spirit language. Go! Run! Be reborn.

There were three people left in the audience on folded metal chairs.  Me, Lisa, and an elderly woman looking utterly bewildered, politely smiling, but not running like the rest.  God bless her.

The man began SHOUTING. With his eyes closed, “The lord is telling me, wait a minute, the Lord is telling me there are wicked and arrogant sinners here that refuse his anointing. This is your time! Run tothe wall!  Run to the wall!”

He then opened his eyes and pointed his finger at us, two very bewildered teenagers. No teenager likes to be pointed out in a crowd for any reason.  So, me and Lisa stood to our feet, pushed our chairs back and RAN the other way to the very tiny Sunday school bathroom to hide.

Our friend found us there later and profusely apologized. Needless to say, she didn’t ask us to come to her youth group ever again and we were glad.

This is a nightmare story, and if my friend and I had been alone, or couldn’t brush it off, it could have been a very emotionally destructive occurrence. But we were together, knew who we were in Jesus, and had a very good story to tell afterword’s. We were ok.

Story Number two.

I had a friend in high school named Mike whose father was a drug dealer and addict.  He had a brain aneurysm on a Wednesday. I remember it so clearly, because of how devised Mike was when he called to tell me.  I prayed for his dad. Everyone did.

That night at Mike’s church, his pastor stood in front of his congregation and prophesied that Mikes dad would be healed, restored and redeemed to Jesus by the next Wednesday.  Mike believed his pastor, because this pastor had always been his spiritual leader.  Why would it be a mistake? Mike trusted this man implicitly, and he called me later to tell me his good news.  I worried.  Everyone who knew him worried, even though of course we wanted his dad to be healed, restored and redeemed by Jesus. We wanted nothing else.

For a week we prayed for him.  Wednesday came, and Mike’s dad passed away shortly after noon that day. Mike and his mother went into a deep depression, Mike was never the same, first for losing his dad, second for losing his faith in God and the church.  I hope and pray that wherever he is, He knows that Jesus loves him, and some pastors are doing their best with what they know.  Pastors mess up sometimes too.  And some pastors are just very messed up.

Mikes pastors mistake wasn’t funny like what Lisa and I experienced.  It was lethal. His prophecy wounded our friend so deeply that he never was quite the same. His prophetic word destroyed, did not build up. What could have this pastor done differently? What could Mike have done differently?

We tend to fall into two different categories when it comes to sharing a prophetic leading/prompting: Too timid or too bold.  Our hope is to find the balance of humility and authority.

 Story number three

 When Rob and I were working in full time youth ministry, we taught our teenagers about the ways God can speak to us.  That he is and always will be faithful.  Around that time, I started to see rainbows every day.  In the sky, in magazines, on tv, on stickers in the grocery store, in random magazine adds.  Every single day, I would see a rainbow. I asked God, “What is this? Why? I know by now this is you God. No one could have planned this.” His gentle answer came back, “I am faithful to you, to your family, to all generations.” Around the same time, God had given Rob an image of an eagle. He heard God say the eagle was about strength, leadership, dignity.  Strong spirits.  We knew these two symbols were what we were supposed to pray over and share with our teenagers.  Teenagers have way softer hearts than most adults.  They may have rough exteriors, but inside, they aren’t too jaded by the world yet.  Some, yes, but generally, their souls were still malleable and could be coaxed and melded by the authority of God’s word in us, through us, in them, in the word of God.

These were prophetic words and images that God gave us.  Just like that, the kids in our youth ministry started seeing these symbols everywhere.  It was sort of a private thing at first with the kids who were a part of what we called the extreme team.  They told their friends, who told their friends, and so on.  They started praying for a revival. That God would show his strength and faithfulness to their homes, their schools, their generation. Their faith way exceeded my own.

We were on a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico. One of the places we went to evangelize was in the town square.  One of our team slogans, was, “If you’re not up, you’re down.  “Kids who were sharing the gospel were up, kidswho weren’t, were on the sidelines, doing the hard work of praying.  Mobs of people came over to us.  We were a curiosity, no doubt.  Juarez was a very dangerous city, and they ogled at us dumb American teenagers singing horrible vacation bible songs with horrible American dialect of their Spanish language.  It did not matter.  Those kids were fierce, and boldly approached the throne of Jesus. They prayed for salvation of these souls. 

All of a sudden, dark clouds began to form over the plaza where we stood.  The kids raised their hands to the sky and prayed the rain clouds away. I kid you not, it began to rain to the north, south, east and west of the square in which we stood.  They held their arms to the sky, praying some more, non-phased by the apparent miracle. After the teens spoke, we disbursed throughout the crowd and began to speak to the audience members through translators, or if they spokeEnglish, we spoke one on one. 

Rob happened to be praying for two young men. He asked them, “Are you ready to accept Jesus and invite him into your lives as your lord and Savior?” The instant he said that last word, a lightning bolt shot down from the heavens and hit a transformer directly across the street.  The men jumped, and loudly with fear n their voices replied “YES” We must do this.” The wind began to blow, and the storm surrounding us dissipated.

The kids were celebrating with joy the obvious presence of the Holy spirit. The people quietly left, and we gathered our team in a huddle. One student lifted her face, the newly shining sun on her face, pointedstraight up, with almost a look of terror, we all looked up. Above the plaza, over our team, there was a rainbow in the sky. Some began to weep. I was too awe-stricken to do anything.  And then, we realized that the monument we were standing around, at the very top there was an eagle. There are no words to convey the depth of the blessing we all knew we were ap part of.  We sang, we celebrated like wild party people all the way home. Jesus was in our presence. We knew. We knew with everything in us that God is faithful. He loved us enough to show us. We knew to our depths that God was our strength, just like the eagle. He was our deliverer from the evil in ourworld.

We were all permanently changed by this. First the prophecy of the rainbow. God promising his faithfulness to us. Then the promise of his strength through the eagle.

Were these prophecies damaging in any way? Was anyone’s soul harmed from trusting in God’s faithfulness or in his strength? How do we know if a prophecy someone gives us is real or fake? True or misleading? It’s not easy, but there are some parameters that are helpful:

Five Internal Markers of Authenticity

Revelation from God carries greater love than your own thoughts. It is also characterized by a deeper wisdom, insight, and kindness. There will be times where you’ll think to yourself, “Wow! That is good stuff!” and you’ll know there is no way you could possibly have dreamed that up yourself.

 

  • Something that is from God will often cause a resonating response within you. You have a sense of holy reverence, or great excitement and expectation, or conviction of sin (which comes with hope and not condemnation), or a deep peace that might well be in contrast to the circumstances.
  • A prophetic word also carries within it the seed of faith to see it through to fulfillment. What we mean is that when someone embraces a word, there is a release of strength, perseverance, and desire to follow the Lord on the pathway that He is highlighting, in spite of any obstacles
  • There is a sense of simplicity and clarity about the arrival of the prophetic message. : While we might need to wait in God’s presence for a little while to hear from Him, don’t forget that a prophetic word will usually come simply and easily. The actual revelation tends to gently float down upon us or springs up on us.
  • The voice of Jesus will have a net-positive impact strengthening, comforting, and encouraging.Jesus says I come that they might have life and have it to the full. The prophetic word will be life-giving.  Jesus does not work in shame or condemnation. Not ever.

 Between these three stories, which brought life? Which brought hope. All of the people giving the prophecies were genuine. They thought they were doing the right thing. Where are the differences? Sit with your 4 or 5 people and ask one another to come up with some thoughts

 Most importantly, remember the love.  Jesus is love. People speaking harmful or hurtful words claiming they are directly from the mouth of God should ALWAYS be questioned.  Our God is a God of love.  Remember the fruits of the spirit -Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If the word you are sharing with someone else lines up with all of these, I’d say it was safe to share, if not, just don’t. You’re not helping, and possibly harming that person.

 

The best and most consistent way to hear from God is the B-I-B-L-E.  God’s word is life and love, and all good things. 

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*The KC Underground has been studying the book “Hearing the Voice of God” by Alex and Hannah Absolom. I shared portions of their book above.

What is Church?

Church is a basement of three-year old’s making crafts in tiny chairs at tiny tables. Learning about the flannelgraph Jesus that wants to move into their hearts.  Church is one three-year-old in that crowd saying,  “Yes.  I want Jesus in my heart, flannelgraph or not, he looks pretty nice and good and loving. I want him there.”

Church is high and holy, orchestral piano and organ and choir, hymn numbers attendance numbers tithe numbers next to the masterfully centered thirty foot cross behind the pastor with the very loud pastor voice droning on and on and on.  Church is a little girl sitting with her grandmother in the back, feeling loved and warm and good as she hears her grandma sing along, “There is Joy In Serving Jesus.”

Church is camp, where a man up front pleads with children to understand that God is good and wants the best for them.  Church is a little girl feeling the wind of the holy spirit come alive in her chest, awakening her to a new part of God she never knew.  

Church is listening to the stories on wooden church pews at Sunday night service of men and women redeemed. The same stories from the same men and women, every Sunday night, but they were mesmerizing.  Their drinking, smoking, drugging lives turned one hundred eighty degrees to the face of Jesus waiting for them to show them a better way. 

Church is a middle school girl, wanting to belong somewhere, anywhere, drawn in by a man brave enough to love middle school kids and tell them they are important and matter to Jesus. The middle school girl believed and stuck around.

Church is a high school student, in a church van, driving the thirty sixth hour on her way home from Mexico with her youth pastor at the wheel, talking about the ways God could use her and how to prepare for a life of service, when all the girl wanted to do was stay in Mexico forever and give the rest of her life to the people in the small villages in the faraway places no one could see.  He said preparing was probably necessary, and so she agreed.

Church is Africa. Waking up and sitting on the green hills, listening to the song of trumpets floating over the hills, echoing hymns at the break of day.  Church is natures harmony in Africa, alive in the people wo love God there.  

Church is awakening to love for another, giving love back to teenagers that was so freely given to her. 

Church is giving and receiving holy communion, men and women streaming in multitudes toward Jesus and his love.  

Church is the women in India, surrounding a young woman as odd to them as an alien from the moon, praying love into her soul, praying strength and hope and joy and the power of the one true God they knew so well.  They showed the woman their strength, and she was never the same.  

Church is holding her three daughters hands in the throngs of marketplace chaos and color and smells of curry and spice and cooking oil, smiling with them, as they embrace God’s people in their hearts and see and know and feel what real love is when they reach across the globe again and again and again to love those who need love, serve those in need, awaken joy in the lives of those in distress.  

Church is Jesus on a regular street in a regular town in a regular way, waving and loving and hugging the lives of the ones around the woman and her regular house and regular ways. Church is listening to her neighbor, ancient and near her end, tell tale after tale after tale of her long adventurous life, how traveling the world for decades brought her home to the feet of Jesus.

  Church is Her love awakening to the beginnings and endings of all things new and old in the ways of Jesus in the living and breathing regular people and regular life around her.

Church is stories around the table.  Church is the love alive in the eyes of the ones that come to her home to love and be loved.  

Church is all things right, pure, noble and good.  Church is fair and right and equal and alive.  

The Church of Jesus will prevail. Love and hope and light and strength are his and theirs when they share the nobility of serving neighbors in a world feeling darker by the day.