Social Deterioration: Our Time to Shine!

My husband and I lived in a suburb of St. Louis for the first 4 years of our marriage. That was enough time for me to come to the full assurance that a boy from the country and a girl from a small town (less than 5000 people) needed to not live in suburbia. Thankfully the Lord heard our cry and my husband ended up with a good job in his home town. So we moved.

The first few months we were stunned by the difference of the more rural news outlets evening news and the evening news we were used to in St. Louis. Rarely was there a murder or any violent crime. Things that were reported was more about the crowds at pumpkin festivals, local high school football rivalries, and if the Farmers Almanac would be accurate in it’s weather predictions for the winter. MUCH more our speed!

Ecclesiastes talks about how there is nothing new under the sun. I agree with it. The heart and intent of the human race has been what it has been since the first sin in the Garden. Thank you Adam and Eve. But it’s not hard to notice the social deterioration. This week has been a prime example of it to me. First there was the trip to a local Walmart, where I was approached 3 times in the parking lot for a hand out of money by people that looked pretty desperate. I’m not thinking getting money for gas was their real agenda. Then there was waiting in line to pay for gas at our local gas station. A young man stood next to me, sores on his face, hyped up and aggressively licking a tootsie pop he had bought. He was jittery and his eyes were crazy looking. He started telling me about how delicious the tootsie pop was and how I needed to try the new flavors. I listened to him while we waited in line thinking to myself, “you have got to be on Meth” , “you’re probably my son’s age” , “God, is there anything I can say to him to help him see your love?” Then that evening, a group of men that my husband goes to Bible study with put together another time of “Praise in the Park”. The idea behind the gathering is to unite fellow believers to spend time in worship, sharing the word, and individuals giving testimony of what Jesus has done in their lives, open air, in the park, in the middle of town. While setting up, a couple ,who apparently spent a lot of time in the park, possibly homeless, started to argue loudly, and the man became aggressive to the woman. One of the guys from the Bible study went over and offered the woman a ride somewhere and tried to diffuse the situation. Then last but not least, my husband and I get up this morning, hop in our truck and head out for Sunday School at our church. Since we live in the country, we drive a stretch of highway that is rural before we arrive at our church that is in a local small city. As we drive along admiring the blue skies and sunshine, my husband points out a large presence of sheriffs department vehicles, highway patrol, and some ambulances, and a fire truck. I turn my head to momentarily see an arrest going down on the side of the road. Four officers, subduing and handcuffing another desperate looking man. All this going on in my quiet country community in the Midwest. Oh yeah and I forgot to mention a significant drug bust this week within a couple of mile radius of my home. Crazy stuff!

A few years ago my husband and I worked with a ministry that had as its goal to reach those who were bound up with addictions, struggling in broken marriages, and hurting from the lifestyle of sin they had been held captive to. For 4 years we ran an accountability group/ Bible study for this ministry. We also worked in a local youth group that bussed in kids from a high school that lived in desperate situations, kids of addicts, prisoners, and other sad situations. Since I follow the local Sheriff’s Facebook page I see their mugshots they release. On more than one occasion I’ve seen someone from youth group, someone from the Bible study has been arrested. That happened this week too. So really all this stuff has been running through my mind. It would be easy to get discouraged, roll up in a ball, and shut ourselves off to the world. Because as I’ve heard it said more than once lately, “It is really getting bad out there…” But for some strange reason, when I run into the Young man strung out on Meth with the lolly pop, the woman asking for $3 for gas in the Walmart parking lot, and some homeless/ addicts hanging out in a gazebo at a local park, I can’t help but think, “What can a middle aged wife, mother, and granny do or say that might help these broken people for one moment to come to their senses and see the Love God offers them?” and “What can be done to make that change lasting?” Then I go back to a quote from the book of Esther when she faced a challenge in the darkest of times for her world. “…Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NKJV

Now is not the time to cower. It is the time to shine! It is the time to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15. I’ve said it before and it’s worth saying again, we who are in Christ have the remedy! We have the answer! We must not hold back!

Results of our efforts may not always show up where we see them right then and there, but that is not our responsibility. Ours is obedience to whatever the Holy Spirit prompts us to do or say as we do our daily life and to keep doing it, over and over until our work here is done. Keeping our eyes on Jesus, not the depth of depravity we see around us.

In short, Go where Jesus would go, Do what Jesus would do, Be what Jesus would have us to be. SHINE!

This!!!

We Are the People of Hope

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Pope John Paul II

Praise in the Park 7/10/2021

Last Saturday I had the privilege to participate in an event at a park in the town that has been my home for the past 24 years. It was a simple event, but one that I feel reflected the message the family of Christian believers have to share around the world. Believers who wanted nothing more or less than lift a message of Hope for trying times. It wasn’t a large gathering but it represented a small midwestern town’s group of believers from at least seven different churches who came together to spend time in worship, scripture readings, and brief testimonies of what a relationship with Jesus means to those who stood up to share. There wasn’t a drive for recognition of one church over another. There wasn’t a collection of money to be collected for a cause. It was simply some musicians, some songs, some ordinary people, and the proclamation of an extraordinary God.

This 1 hour meeting at the park was birthed out of a group of guys that my husband gets together with on the weekly for a time of Bible study. Once again this group isn’t just one church, different denominations, but a common unity of Love for Jesus and the desire to have more of Him in their lives.

A small clip of the gathering

I was asked to share a brief testimony of who God is to me as a part of a group of 5 people, all from different backgrounds. I said yes, but with shaky legs and sometimes voice. Because I know who I am in my own eyes, but I also know who I am In the eyes of Jesus.

One thing that kept rolling around in my head and heart as I prayed about what to say at the Park was the quote from Pope John Paul II. “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Or the modified version I kept thinking, “We are the people of HOPE. We have the cure for the brokenness of our World. His name is Jesus.” With so much going on in so many arenas of our world, it is easy to “abandon ourselves to despair”. When our news outlets focus on hatred, violence, sickness, poverty, etc. , it becomes easy to be consumed by the overwhelming floodgates of sadness and evil, BUT WE HAVE THE CURE! The price Jesus paid to show us His love by His life, death, and resurrection and the Hope we have of Him never leaving or forsaking us is a reality for the one who lives as a Child of God. His promise of the Holy Spirit living in us and the reality of it now fulfilled in our lives also speaks to the truth that “We are the Easter People”/ “We are the people of HOPE”, and we should not be ashamed to proclaim that truth. It is what our nations, states, communities, friends, and families need to hear. God is with us! He is with me. I can walk with Joy in good times and I can continue to walk with peace in times of sadness, because I have Hope. I have Hope here in my daily life of doing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning house, being a mom. I also have Hope in my daily life when tears are my drink and ashes of disappointment are my bread. Psalm 102:9. This life is not the only life I have. I am a part of the “Easter People” I have the assurance of life beyond my final breath in Eternity with Jesus, and the resurrection of things that have been dead in my life due to sin of either myself or others. Jesus makes all things new. That is the glorious HOPE! Hope of a man who testified on Saturday of the power of God that changed his life from a path of destruction to a life built secure in Jesus. Or the testimony of a woman whose life was broken by addiction, pain, and sadness to one transformed to a life of purpose and peace. And the testimony of a man who has known the sorrow of loss of a young child to cancer and the collapse of his marriage, to a life that knows the comfort of God who is close in the good and the bad. Then the testimony of a man who knows the reality of a life unable to rise above guilt and shame to a life of Grace given by the God who knows our weakness. Then of course there’s the testimony of little ol me, a mom, a grandma, a wife, a daughter, a friend. A woman who knows the HOPE of God that overcomes the heartbreak of life on an imperfect planet knowing this isn’t the end. Each day is another day of beginning when Jesus writes the story of our life.

Some of the band
God’s People

“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:31-39 The Message

We are the People of HOPE!!

Video of my testimony I gave at “Praise in the Park”

My Next Fifty Years

Oh the joys of social media… Probably one of the main reasons I haven’t dumped Facebook and went back to a flip phone is the Birthday reminders. I am notorious for forgetting birthdays. Ask my husband. His is just two days after mine and I forgot it the first year we were married. Notorious… Anyway, the daily reminders of Birthdays of friends and family has been one of the little gems for my life that Facebook has given me. It also provides opportunity for me to mark my birthday each year. I’m not sure if that’s a little gem or not lol. Each year for as long as I can remember having Facebook, my status on my birthday has been “half way to…”. At 45 I was “Half way to 90”. At 47 I was “Half way to 94”. Well this year I have arrived. I will be “Half Way to 100”. This is probably the best year to stop that practice. My grandpa made it to just a few days shy of 101 and I’m pretty sure 100 years is about as far as I want to go.

Me almost 50 years ago. Lol
Just gotta be me.

All this reflecting on being “Halfway to 100” in a few weeks, has had me thinking about an old Tim McGraw song, “My Next 30 Years”. Here’s a little sample of the lyrics to refresh your memory:

“Oh, my next 30 years I’m gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers, huh
Maybe, I’ll remember my next 30 years”

I’m not a beer drinker, but this song has been rolling around in my head for about a month. It’s a summary of all the things he would do different his next 30 years to get more out of his life. It’s got me thinking… “What would I want to do in my next 50 years?”

Where it all started in my first 20 years .

A majority of my first 50 years have been spent being married and raising a family. Married won’t change but raising a family already has. I’m down to one kid out of 4 that isn’t an adult yet and he’s just one year away from turning into one. So for my next 50 years life is going to be a lot more different than the first 50. My first 50 years I spent a lot of time preoccupied with things that just didn’t matter. Though I tried my hardest, I let the worries and cares around me squeeze out a lot of the daily joys. It’s funny how the little things like time spent playing at the park with my kids really did become the big things. Being busy with silly stuff made me miss some of the most important things during my first 50 years. My next 50 years I want to enjoy the gifts God has given me in my life: my husband, my kids, and my grandkid (grandkids to come). Being present, here and now each day with them… I want to soak up every ounce of joy God gives me with them for my next 50 years.

Somewhere in time during my first 30- 40 years.

It’s funny how my first 50 years I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to fix me. I think my next 50 I’ll try to just let it be and leave that to God. A good place to start is just accepting that I’m not perfect, but dearly loved by God, His grace really is Amazing and His forgiveness is Free. My next 50 years I am going to believe that when God calls me “Holy and Dearly Loved by Him” Colossians 3:12. He means it. It’s not just words on a page, and He wants me to know Him, not just work at crossing off another item from a religious “to do” list to make Him happy with me. Maybe a little less religiousness and a lot more relationship with Him my next 50 years.

For my next 50 years I want my theme song to be “This Little Light of Mine”. Instead of trying to figure out how to be God’s bullhorn, I want to shine. My daily interactions with family, friends, and acquaintances would be marked by this. Not some bold in your face intimidation, but a taste of God’s goodness just seeping off of my life. Get close enough and you’ll smell it, see it, taste it and want more of Him. I want to be a reflection of Him in everything I do for my next 50 years.

The more I think about it, the more I believe my next 50 years will be the best 50 of my life. Thanks to all the things I’ve learned the last 50. I guess they call that perspective, another Gift God has given to me. May I really take hold of it these Next 50 years.

The family. My “Opus Magnum” and The joyful gift God’s granted me my first 50 years

SHINE!!!

The news today… you would have to be hiding under a gigantic rock to not see what is going on. I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not so out with it, I have been a avid Trump supporter this past election cycle. I’ll admit that four years ago he would not have been my cup of tea, but these past four years he has proven himself, presidentially, over and over.

I have found the censorship on major social media platforms maddening, the left wing agenda driven news media scary, and myself, little ole me, insufficient to really do anything of substance to change any of it. Really at times it can be scary. BUT GOD!!

It just so happens that my husband and I have been reading 2 Kings in the Bible on our YouVersion Bible App Plan (if you don’t have it get it!!!) 2 Kings is a history of the Kings of Israel and Judah as they were a split Kingdom. So you guessed it, division, good kings and then bad kings, actually really horrible kings, are accounted for. Times of peace and prosperity, times of oppression, and horrific injustices, blatant evil are all recounted in that book. In light of our current events in America and around the world, some of the accounts can seem eerily familiar. Which is something my husband and I have been discussing on the regular lately. We’ve almost got to the point, in the Bible, where God’s chosen people have chosen evil over God so much that they end up in exile. Oppressed by foreign rulers and taken away to a foreign land. Through a series of events and several hundred years they end up in the time when Jesus appears on the scene as a baby.

This scene has been playing in my mind a lot this morning. In particular a verse written by the prophet Isaiah centuries before that is about Jesus has been resounding in my heart.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭9:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/111/isa.9.2.niv

Jesus came to the world in a time of great darkness of hearts. Brutality, oppression, injustice, inequality, dishonesty, etc abounded by those ruling a majority of their world, the Romans. Sadly the religious institutions weren’t too far behind them on their abuses as well. But into that scene Jesus appeared. That light broke through and began a revolution that has changed the world and will continue to do so until God’s Kingdom is fully realized. “Your kingdom come, Your Will be done”.

I have no idea where this will go. I have no idea how all this will affect my life, but I also know that the light of Jesus has not been snuffed out by all these events. It cannot be. It goes forward and it fills the earth with God’s glory!

So what does all this mean for little ol me, Midwestern, middle class, mid aged woman in the Middle of the USA? SHINE!!! That light that burst on the scene is still shining and it burns brightly through every Jesus lover on the planet. This is not the time to cower in fear of all the what if’s of the future. This is the time to display the love, the joy, and the peace that won my heart so many years ago. In the end whether Trump is able to prove the allegations of fraud true and the results of the election are turned around or Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take the reigns of our country. I am not to fear. God has always had a plan. I must trust it, and I must do what I was created to do by Him all along. SHINE!!

Orphan No More

Back in the early 90’s the world became aware of the Romanian orphan crisis. I remember, as a college student, surfing channels late at night on my parents TV and stumbling across a news report about it. In 1989 communism fell. Things hidden in the darkness came to light as the world watched news reports of hundreds of abandoned children left in orphanages that were poorly staffed. The bare minimum was done to keep these babies and children alive. I was captured by images of one year old infants in institutionalized baby beds rocking themselves back and forth. There was no one to hold them, no one to comfort them, no one to sing to them, tell them stories, or even call them by name. They had adapted to such cruel circumstances by soothing themselves the only way they knew how. Rocking back and forth with a blank stare on their face.

This morning as I spent my quiet time with Jesus, the image of these children came to my mind. So I open my YouTube app and did a quick search of the Romanian orphans of the 90’s. The first link that caught my eye was a short BBC report of a young man who survived the Romanian orphanage. He was adopted at the age of 11 by an American couple from California. What struck me about his interview was a quote that he said, “I could not adapt to a family environment. My mind was just so used to living in an institution. I was desperate to go back to Romania…” Institution, abuse, neglect… that was all he had ever known. A loving family with his needs being met was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. He talked about how easy it is to spot those who had survived the orphanages. “When you see a grown adult, sitting or standing rocking back and forth or doing something only an institutionalized person would do, you can instantly recognize that person grew up in an orphanage.” The final phrase that stuck with me, “I miss the orphanage. It was my home.” The young man in the report went back to Romania to visit his birth family and he had found that his mother wasn’t able to be the mom he was looking for and he went back to the United States.

Everyone has a past. Everyone has things they wished had never happened or that they had never done. We all are very much like the Romanian orphans of the 90’s. Due to the condition of our hearts, before Jesus, we have become used to the methods to self soothe that we developed through the years (addictions and coping mechanisms), and unfortunately we have let the conditions we came out of become our home, where we feel we belong, deep inside of our hearts. The labels we were given, engrained in us, are what we believe we are. So much so that we find ourselves searching back in where we came from trying to find the missing piece instead of embracing the “New” that Jesus died to give us.

I’ve spent the last week reflecting about my own identity, who I am. It’s not an easy task. Because just as that Romanian man looks at himself as an orphan, at times I tend to view myself as a spiritual orphan, left to my own devices. God speaks to me in His word about how I am to renew my mind, my thoughts, by thinking about the truth of the Word. I am not what I’ve felt like I was. I am who He, God, says I am. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people…God’s special possession…” or as the Passion Translation puts it “But you are God’s chosen treasure…” When God came to my Spiritual orphanage and found me in deplorable conditions, rocking back and forth trying to feel some kind of comfort for my broken and lost soul, God picked me. He took me out, He cleaned me up and put medicine on my wounds, changed my filthy, sin stained, rags out with His beautiful, righteous garments, and in that very moment Zephaniah 3:17 says the One who Delights in me, God, my Heavenly Father “sings” over me, His chosen treasure. God sings…

It is at this point, the truth of us being His treasure, that you and I have to make a choice. Will we accept the gift we have been given, new life, new identity in Christ, or will we wander about unable to take it all in because we cannot shake the image of ourselves that we have seen for so long? Only to find that what we thought was our “home”, our lives without Jesus, was nothing more than a cold and lonely place far from where God, the one who loves us, wants us to be, with Him, held closely by Him.

Keep the Main Thing The Main Thing: Response for Uncertain Times

Several years ago my husband and I attended a smaller church that sat on top of a large hill in the middle of a small city. The Church was two story and rectangular(kind of looked like an ark in my mind) and situated right in the middle of a questionable neighborhood. It was the kind of neighborhood that I would get uncomfortable the nights we would be there if I didn’t know the door was locked. One Sunday we drove up the hill and noticed the SWAT team for the city surrounding the house next door to our church. We opted to drive around for awhile until the arrest was made. There were many Sundays that I would sit during service near a window and watch the neighborhood people walking up and down the hill on the way to the stores on the main strip. I would often think about how comfortable I was sitting in my padded chair, dressed nicely, surrounded by my family and friends. Then look out the window to see someone who looked desperate and alone walking down the hill. The image of Noah and his family sitting in the ark would play through my head. “Is this what they might have felt listening to the world fall apart while they were safe in the ark?” Lately, I’ve felt that feeling again. As I’ve watched the evening news drone on and on about riots, unrest, virus totals, statues being demolished, etc. Then I look around me in my nice country house, acreage, and miles from the closest conflicts. “Am I sitting on the ark again?” Even Noah in his time was a preacher of righteousness up until he got on the ark and it started to rain, why would I just sit here… The discussion with friends I’ve met up with lately has centered around “What on earth is going on in our country?” There’s anger and sadness over the changes that we’ve seen, and the biggest question of all is “What are we going to do?” I’ve thought of that a lot too. “What is my response?”

I’ve been contemplating Philippians quite a bit the past couple of months, and this week is no exception. The verse I’ve been chewing on is Philippians 3:20 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” NIV Actually the Passion Translation version has been resounding in my heart, “But we are a colony of heaven on earth as we cling tightly to our life-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “colony” stood out. I figured it was quite a jump from “citizenship” to “colony” so I checked it out in the Greek. (It’s that deep thinker side of me coming out.) And sure enough the word “politeuma” was used which could be a state or a commonwealth, “colony” would work. Why all the fuss? Simple, it is easy to get caught up in thinking there’s nothing we can do. Our citizenship is in heaven. The earth will go to pot, and we will get out of here. We will sit on our ark and watch the world drown. But when I look at my life as a colonist of heaven. My viewpoint of today’s events changes. Colonists of Rome during Paul’s time “were expected to promote the interests of Rome and maintain the dignity of the city.” As a colonist of heaven I am to “Promote Heaven’s interest on earth and lead a life worthy of heavenly citizenship.” (notes from Life Application Study Bible on Philippians 3:20). My home, my brothers and sisters in Jesus are all Colonist of Heaven. We are here to plant heavenly citizenships all around us (make disciples) and influence the world we live in. Not hide our allegiance and wait for the great escape. We must not get our eyes off of the main thing. What is the main thing you may ask? Jesus gave us the main thing, the mission, after His death and resurrection right before He ascended into Heaven. The Main Thing is this: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV.

The American Christian, really the American anything, waits for a program. We want our kids to play in organized sports as opposed to organic sports that occurs in our neighborhoods. We want our relationships to start in organized groups and clubs as opposed to organic relationships that occur when we talk across the fence to our neighbors, smile at the cashier at Walmart, leave a significant tip for our waitress, etc. We don’t have to have a program to do what we are commanded to do! Look at who is around you and get started. “Make disciples!” Look at the tools you have around you, your home, your food, your social media, etc. and do what looks obvious to do. As colonist of heaven and ambassadors for Christ, all we have to do is represent. Represent by listening, praying, giving, and teaching others about how they too can become part of the Everlasting Kingdom that will not fail.

The other thing the American Christian is prone to get hung up on is numbers. “Great I’ll make disciples, how do I make the most?” Start with the one. The one who is in front of you. The one you run into on the regular. The one who listens when you share and when you point the best you know how to the King of your Kingdom, Jesus- who started the Colony of heaven in your heart. Simplify it even more, the one can be the ones who live in your own home, your kids/ grandkids (they are great disciples).

It is easy for me to get caught up in the drama on Social Media and the nightly news. But our current situation has not changed the mission that as a Heavenly Colonist I have embraced. I am not called to get caught up in the name calling, blame games. I am to proclaim the answer, Jesus is King over all and His Kingdom is the only one that will stand in the end.

Follower of Jesus- Shining Star in Dark Times

Corrie Ten Boom has been one of my more modern heroes of the faith. I’ve read her book “The Hiding Place” and watched the movie several times. Her courage as a middle aged woman to hide Jews in her home during the occupation of Nazi Germany and her survival of Ravensbrück concentration camp have long struck a chord within me. I’m not sure why. As I’ve watched the news unfold the past few weeks I’ve thought often of how she must have felt as the Germans began to occupy Holland and she was confronted with the reality of going with the flow of society or doing what is right in the eyes of God. I’ve spent this evening relaxing and looking at quotes from Corrie. There have been so many that have shaped me through the years. In my searching, I found one that has resonated greatly in my heart tonight. It is from a letter Corrie wrote in 1974. I was 3 years old when this was written, yet it holds so very true today. “The world is deathly ill. It is dying. The Great Physician has already signed the death certificate. Yet there is still a great work for Christians to do. They are to be streams of living water, channels of mercy to those who are still in the world. It is possible for them to do this because they are overcomers. Christians are ambassadors for Christ. They are representatives from Heaven to this dying world. And because of our presence here, things will change.”

Corrie Ten Boom and The Hiding Place in her home that saved Jews during World War 2

I too have been horrified at the murder of George Floyd, and I am greatly disturbed by the chaos that seems to spin more and more out of control, add all this to a global Pandemic. We are in the middle of “the Perfect Storm”. I have often referred to 9/11 as being one of the saddest times in my life as my heart ached for my nation. But I am sensing that the times we are in are starting to compare if not surpass that horrific event. The division, lawlessness, hatred, etc. It is heart breaking. It is as Corrie wrote 46 years ago, a world that is “deathly ill.” and “dying”. I’ve often told those around me things similar, but probably not with the urgency I feel for it today, and as Corrie wrote, the followers of Jesus are the ones with the cure for this death sentence because we are the “representatives from Heaven.” We have the antidote!! We have the cure!! The question that plays in my mind is “How do we administer this cure that our dying world desperately needs?” Really it is, “What am I to do?”

I live in the country. The other night, after a trip to the closest city and it’s Menards, we arrived in my circle drive and I stepped out of my car into the darkness that our few lights around our house provides. I looked up at the sky and breathed in the fresh air and was amazed by the stars. I can never get enough of them. They are so bright and they feel so close in the darkness that surrounds my rural home. I immediately thought of a couple of verses in Philippians that I had read recently “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” Philippians 2:14-15. My generation is “warped and crooked”. No right or wrong, good is bad, bad is good. Our hearts are far from God and this is a dark time. But those of us who know Jesus, are the children of God and we shine like the stars in the sky. When the darkness is great, His light shining through us is greater. When we shine the light of God’s hope, we are just as the stars I gazed upon that night, fascinatingly beautiful to a world that needs peace and answers. It also occurred to me as I gazed at the millions of stars on that clear night, It’s not just one star that makes me pause and breathe in a moment of peace. It is a sky full of them, doing what stars do best, shining. My dark world needs my star shining kindness to the cashier, shining generosity to my waitress, shining compassion to the lonely and hurting, shining assurance and peace to those around me rocked with uncertainty, shining love- God’s pure love to those pillaged and left to die in hatred’s wake. That is the light that when boldly joined by all the other Followers of Jesus, stars shining, breaks the power of darkness that cannot overcome God’s pure light even when the night seems to be as dark as our world has been lately.

Defining Moments- Pentecost Sunday

I awoke this morning earlier than I wanted to, it’s Sunday I should be able to sleep in a little. First thing to cross my mind was checking the status of the violent protests that have erupted in cities across America, specifically a city near me. One of my close friends has a son who is a Highway Patrolman assigned to a particular hot spot in that city. I have been in prayer for him.

My heart is broken for the sin sickness that began this mess. The cruelty and utter horror of watching a video of a policeman kill George Floyd during an arrest. There is no excuse for such a cold hearted atrocity. But on the same token, protest meant to cry for justice have spun out of control and erupted across our nation. Looting, violence, innocent businesses destroyed, people being killed, etc. my heart aches as I watch this unfold.

All of this occurring as the Church celebrates a traditional holiday- Pentecost Sunday.

I have always held an optimistic view of Church history. I believe the Church is not a wimpy, irrelevant organization of do gooders. The Church is the messenger, the courier of the Cure for the madness we see escalating by the hour. In the midst of this great darkness our world is spiraling in, we are the light! Church history is the world’s History and in this case the Church is what will define this moment of American History. We cannot take our role lightly, nor can we believe we are powerless and defeated by foes too great for us. Now is our time to shine!

Yesterday morning my 19 year old daughter had a friend over. They were at our table in my kitchen when I walked in to get my morning coffee going. After some light conversation, the events of the news began to be discussed. My daughter asked me my thoughts on all the craziness in the world she is just now starting to step out into adulthood within. It was then I quoted the words of Jesus from John 4:35, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” I then told them, “What we are watching is sad and horrible, but this is also a sign of a good thing. The anger, violence, hatred, etc. are a reflection of the heart of our nation. These people need an answer that political powers cannot provide. They need what we have, Jesus, and they are ‘ripe for harvest’. The question is how do we as the Church get the Cure to them?”

On this Sunday 2000 plus years ago a group of men and women waited in an upper room in Jerusalem. They were familiar with unrest, police brutality, cruelty, racism, pain, etc. They lived it. Roman’s occupied Jewish territory. The Romans were unfair/ unjust. This particular group in the upper room had watched as these oppressors’ subjected their leader, an innocent man who did nothing but good, to death on the cruelest of torments, the Roman Cross. They also experienced the joy of knowing that the current events around them could not stop Jesus. He was not confined by torture and death. He conquered them! He told them that the things they had seen Him do were going to be surpassed by the things they would do once the Holy Spirit came upon them. So it was in this environment, they waited.

God’s hope does not disappoint! HE came that Sunday! HE filled everyone in the room with His promised power to be a witness, and it was there that the world began to change. Men and women, boys and girls, were no longer confined by their mortality. God’s very Spirit had filled them to overflowing to take the Cure- Jesus to the world. And that is exactly what they did. A once cowardly denier of Jesus became a man of boldness and preached a sermon that preceded 3,000 conversions, and what was a tiny group of twelve disciples has exploded to millions and millions through the centuries.

Have we seen dark times in history before? Yes! The church has endured much. But it is time. This is our defining moment. We are to take the power of Pentecost to the world! We are to do “the greater things” John 14:12-14.

John Wimber once said, “When do we get to do the stuff? You know, the stuff here in the Bible, the stuff Jesus did, like healing the sick, raising the dead, healing the blind- stuff like that?”

Now is the time to do the stuff! Our job is to boldly proclaim Jesus, pray for those He puts in our path, and Shine our lights. As we do these things, “the stuff” will come! Because once again the Church is celebrating a Pentecost Sunday during a time of great darkness, heartache, and oppression. And just like that day so many years ago as we seek God’s Pentecostal Power and step out in it, our world, our nation will receive the much needed cure, Jesus!

Midnight Revival

There’s been a few times in my life I’ve been able to get a little taste of what heaven is probably like. When I was in 9th grade my best friend and I spent a night talking about God and praying. It probably wasn’t typical behavior for a couple of High School Freshman girls, but we were hungry to know God more and He was very willing to fill us. We stayed up most of the night laughing and then crying and talking about how cool God was and how much we wanted to know Him.

My second year of college a couple of friends and I ended up talking about God. Late in the night we started praying for each other and crying. It was just an impromptu prayer meeting in a College campus house that ended up with us “spreading the joy” to others on our floor. We were amazed at how real God was and how close He felt.

Early in our lives as young parents, my husband and I were discussing God and suddenly began to feel His touch. What was a simple car ride from one side of town to the other ended up with the very real presence of God with us. Tears, laughter, and a trip to his brother’s house for a time of prayer there.

I’ve seen it happen more than once. Not necessarily something experienced in a church building with the right people at the right time. Although He’s met me there too . Just someone hungry for more of God experiencing Him in a new way.

Acts 16 shares a story of an experience just like that. What started out as persecution of Paul and Silas for freeing a slave girl from tormenting demons turned into a prayer meeting that started at midnight and went until the sun came up. It started in a jail cell bound in stocks. Songs of worship for a God who has all things in His hands. It went to a jailer frightened by a supernatural earthquake wanting to know the God these men had been singing about. Then on to the jailers house for all night long discussions about God and His word. Baptisms in the middle of the night. A meal prepared and served and joy filling the house. Not an ordinary church service, not a bunch of holy people: prisoners, jailers, a common household, and a couple of men who had an encounter with Jesus- full of the Holy Spirit, and they were ready to share. All before the sunrise on what seemed to the rest of the world to be just another ordinary night.

Me in my middle aged state values my head hitting the pillow before 10pm. An all night prayer meeting seems like it could be a daunting task. Until I remembered, There’s nothing like the times I’ve spent in the past when God for some reason chose to let me experience His presence and reality those years ago.

I think God allows us to experience times like those as anchors. It locks us in securely in just how real He is. Paul experienced the reality of the presence of God in times like that night at the Jail/ Jailers house. The testimony I’m sure sustained him, Silas, the Jailer and his family for the years to come.

The times I’ve seen the hand of God move in my life have done the same. When my focus has been off and I’ve “forgotten” God reminds me of those times.

The times He’s allowed me to feel the reality of His closeness, the power of His presence, and the personal touch of His hand, those are the things that create a hunger for more. May I be willing to be inconvenienced by the place God chooses to show up, the time He appears, and the way He brings it about. God’s ways of showing Himself to us are not always our convenient, preconceived ways. They may involve a midnight revival with some ordinary people that just want to know “what must we do to be saved?” Or “what must I do to know you? Because what little taste I have had of You God is not enough. I want more.”

Bring on the Midnight Revival in my crazy world that makes little sense at times. When You step in, God, a prison becomes a pathway to freedom. Shackles become instruments of worship, and in the darkness and pain of a trial filled night a table for a feast is set before me.

Enough Already…

I’m about done with this whole Quarantine deal. We’ve been at it for about 4 weeks I believe and are only about half done. Although I’m not really sure half done is accurate. It may be more…

I’ve been doing all the “right stuff”. Exercising, projects around the house, gardening, going outside, spending time in prayer and meditation. Honestly, the pressure from the changes of my life are starting to get to me. It occurred to me last Saturday after a day of straightening my pantry, cleaning out cabinets, and probably the most shocking thing to me- alphabetizing my spices (Not a natural organizer, never done before). It hit me… “Enough Already”. I’m tired of this change. I’m tired of the nightly news. I’m tired of the conspiracy theories. I’m tired of trying to get up, show up, and continue doing the same thing over and over again like I’m living the movie “Groundhog’s Day”. And honestly, unlike the majority of this world I really don’t even have it that bad. I’ve got room to roam out in my little corner of the world. Death rates are low, and so far the financial impact of this has been minimal to my family, with exception of a bigger grocery bill. So throw a little guilt on top of all the other emotions I’ve been feeling…”Enough Already”.

Usually at this point in my blog entries I make the turn towards the light at the end of the tunnel, or the deep spiritual point I’m trying to convey begins to become more clear. But if I’m honest, I’m not quite sure how to make the turn this time or turn on the light switch that makes the light at the end of the tunnel appear. Right now the light doesn’t seem to be there, and the point seems to be hidden from me. Not exactly the best place to be, or is it?

It’s times like these in my life that I appreciate David’s Psalms he wrote. I can go to the Bible and see that on its pages are feelings similar to mine. Psalm 13:1-5 The Message expresses these sentiments.

“Long enough, GOD — you’ve ignored me long enough. I’ve looked at the back of your head long enough. Long enough I’ve carried this ton of trouble, lived with a stomach full of pain. Long enough my arrogant enemies have looked down their noses at me.Take a good look at me, GOD, my God; I want to look life in the eye, So no enemy can get the best of me or laugh when I fall on my face.”

David is saying the equivalent of “Enough Already”. That gives me hope. David saw situations that surpass my temporary inconveniences that aggravate me. He lived through situations some placed upon him without his ability to control, others from bad choices he made. He found God someone He was able to run to and pour out the feelings of his heart without fear. God loved his honesty calling David “a man after His own heart.”

Honesty, laying it out to God is the best policy. He knows it all anyway because He sees what’s in our hearts. If I am afraid, if I am discouraged, if I am angry, if I am… God knows. I am assured of that. Not only does He know, He listens, and He cares. I can take my “Enough Already” to Him, and soon I will find as David did that God hears and He answers. The last two verses of Psalm 13 MSG declares just that. “I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms— I’m celebrating your rescue. I’m singing at the top of my lungs, I’m so full of answered prayers.” I can look back on some of the darkest times in my life and see now how God was at work. It may have taken time, but He turned it all around, as God promised in His word: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There I’ve found it again. “The light at the end of the tunnel”, the “deep spiritual point” I can make.

I may currently have the feelings of “Enough Already” rolling around inside of my heart and mind, but God… God is exactly that. He is “Enough Already” for me. He will not leave me here. I may not see the changes that put my world back to where it was before Covid 19. But I will see God’s Goodness in my life as I continue to run with my “Enough Already” to Him.