Category Archives: Spiritual

New Seasons, Shifting Sand

dpp_0055.jpgOceans lovers like myself know what it is like to feel wet sand being displaced under your feet as the underwater current urges waves forward. We continually have to lift our feet and reset them for firmer footing, lift them, reset them, lift them and reset them.

Such are the seasons of our lives.

This last day of August 2018 offers both a “finally” and a “beginning”, a lifting and a resetting. School started a few days ago and since after 20 years, I am no longer a home educator, I find myself settling into another season journeying with the precious parents at our small Christian private school. I must say, parental involvement in this top-notch school is noteworthy — here are working and stay-at-home parents that give their time to help the teachers, encourage the administrative staff and join hands with each other in friendship. God will bless this, indeed.

For most US communities, personal lives are dictated by academic schedules. So like millions of other parents I now exhale summer activity, spontaneity and Southern humidity, and inhale reflection, coffee shops, after-school schedules and vocational duties.

I’ll be honest, August has been tough until today.

I exhale loss and sadness and inhale hope and promise. The stain of death and two older kids leaving home for higher education made sleep difficult. My dad died in August 2017. Another friend died in August 2015. Two families I know had sons killed in August 2018. (sigh)

I inhale God’s comfort and I exhale the difficulty of shifting sand under my feet that makes me lift and reset, lift; reset. Underneath this metaphorical sand is a very real rock: God’s Truth which is my foundation.

I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel;
My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
I have set the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. (Psalm 16:7-8)

August was ironic. I drove to some of the highest peaks of my life….traveling across theLake Tahoe nation to luxurious and amazing destinations like the Rocky Mountains and Lake Tahoe. My heart soared and my eyes absorbed the beauty of God’s creation. God kissed me through this trip. I remember driving through Kansas on I-70. It’s not the most scenic route and I kept watch of the dark clouds to the north, but for a few moments, I was overwhelmed at God’s goodness. I teared up. This bucket-list trip had happened! Joy in the midst of a challenging month.

Beauty in the midst of pain. Hardship in the midst of hope.  Newness in familiarity. I encourage anyone who, like me, is experiencing a shift in their lives to imagine your hand reaching and holding the Divine hand.  My personal picture is me grabbing God’s hand with all of the strength that I have! He holds on just as intensely.

Friends, we are loved by a faithful and devoted God, who created us with good reason and profound intent. Yesterday I heard a pastor say this (my summary) “Our heavenly Father is SO good at taking tragic situations and events inspired by pure evil; reworking their consequences for our good….(in order that we grow through them), that we often begin to believe that he actually authored the events.”

The Lord says of us:
“He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:15)

14446133_1189737564418217_4322761516211056887_nMy soul rests while I regain my footing because I am loved by God who takes challenging events and uses them to cause me to seek his comfort. He teaches me how to get through earth’s journey triumphant rather than beat up and disillusioned. He wants to do this for all of us.

Do you need to exhale your yesterday so that you can inhale your present and your future? As you lift your feet under the ocean water of your life, remember that the current of God always has new sand for you to reset your feet on. Lift, reset. Lift and reset.

Beneath seasonal sands is a sure foundation.

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Move Aside the Cup of Milk

Call a sacred assembly;
Gather the people,
Sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and nursing babes; (Joel 2:15-16)

girls on desk looking at notebook
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I had not heard a pastor tell a congregation that children should be expected to learn the Word of God like they are expected to learn math and grammar. This well-known leader in North Carolina smashed my paradigm that children were too young to understand the same lessons that their parents learn in adult services. Adult services. That too is a misnomer when it comes to the intent of God for each generation of his people.

I understand the point of the typical children’s ministry. Introduce the kids to salvation, the birth and death of Jesus Christ, and concepts like the fruit of the Spirit in a fun-filled way. That’s great. However, the ministries that I’ve come to respect teach children deeper truths that some adults never even get in “adult services”. When God called for a general assembly in Joel 2, he meant for all to hear the sound of his voice.

My sheep hear my voice. (John 10:27)

Samuel was a child who heard the voice of God.
David was a teenager who sensed the call of God to be a warrior-intercessor.Jaredito 3
Jesus was twelve and taught in the temple.
The unborn John the Baptist leaped at the presence of His unborn Savior.

Later in verse 28 of Joel, God says that he intends to pour out the Holy Spirit on all flesh. Not just humans above the age of eighteen or who have divinity degrees. All flesh. What does this look like? The prophet Joel goes on to tell what God speaks to him: “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.”

God is still speaking, confirming his Word to individual hearts in a variety of communicative ways. Whether visual, a gut impression or a still, small voice, God leads and guides all of his children into all truth.

My eight-year-old son woke up this morning ready to share an array of dramatic dreams. One, in particular, caught my attention. He was walking around someone’s house, telling the enemy to get out. What was remarkable was that he knew that the enemies weren’t people, but spiritual forces that the people who lived in the house couldn’t see.

I told him that I believed God was letting him know that even though he is young, God’s authority is with him because he believes in Jesus and Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). I told him that evil spirits want to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). Lastly, I was able to share with him that God has given him compassion. Jesus cared so much about people that he was compelled to free them from the things that harmed their lives. My son was able to make the connection between his dream and those scriptures. This is a child who dealt for a long time with fear. I know that God wants him to know and be confident in divine power and the force of faith and compassion and what a way to do it….a dream!

Whether a church encourages children to attend the general service or not is irrelevant. What is crucial is that ministries and parents understand that a child doesn’t have to be only given the milk of the Word until high school. While I’ve focused on the topic of hearing God’s voice, there are many other meaty subjects in the Word of God that children can be taught.

photo of child reading holy bible
Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

Jesus wants the children to know Him. Not just a portion, but the whole of Him. Not just his character, but his power and authority. Jesus is the Word.  The Word declared from the mouth of a worshipping child carries power.

 

Weeding the Soul

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My backyard provides God such a wonderful backdrop for my education. Gardening teaches me that many of nature’s processes mirror our struggles. Take weeds for instance. What a wonderful metaphor for life’s yucky stuff that embeds in our souls when we are not paying attention.

I hate weeding. Our backyard contains mulch beds for my herbs, lilies, azaleas, chrysanthemums and an array of other perennials. Not only is weeding physically tiring—hours of squats, tugging and pulling, but it’s also messy. The weed in this picture didn’t images (6)look like a weed at first glance. I figured that it was grass that had grown from the clippings that sprayed the mulch beds. So for a few weeks, I ignored the spot.

It grew.

images (7)No big deal. Yes, the grass was growing in my mulch bed, but grass killer would take care of it when I got around to it. How many times do we assume that a behavior or a habit isn’t a big deal? Or we know it could develop into a problem, but there is no urgency in our minds. We’ll get around to it before it gets too bad.

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Lord, I Want More Than Crumbs!

“It’s his nature that provides us with revelatory insights that influence our whole identity and personality.” Graham Cooke

crumbsRevelation is heaven’s food for our spiritual nourishment. The Holy Scriptures reveal the full expression of himself that God desires to give us.

Matthew 15:27 records an incident when a Canaanite woman, born outside of the Abrahamic covenant, begged Jesus for the healing of her demon-possessed daughter.  At some point the Spirit of God had opened her mind to the reality of God’s beneficence and power to heal. Her request of Jesus reveals the earnestness of her hunger. Recognizing the fact that Jesus was Hebrew and she was not, she identifies herself as lesser in privilege yet willing to get any “crumb” he offered.

At first, he responds to her that he has only been sent to “the lost sheep of Israel”, the children of God who are deserving of his nourishing bread.

But she persists and eventually says, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

This scripture is rich with revelation…insights that communicate to us God’s nature and intents. The two that strike me from this passage are his use of the metaphor “bread” to answer her request for healing. Notable as well are the state of her hunger, her parental need, and her persistence to pursue. These last items can be applied metaphorically to our lives today – the divine hunger to delve into the depths of Scripture in order to encounter God ourselves and see our loved ones encounter him as well. Crumbs provide temporary relief. It’s as if the woman was saying, “If my daughter can just get a day’s reprieve from her oppression, I’ll take it…I’ll take a crumb!” But we know, as a human being, she’d want to full loaf of bread.

We learn much from nature as well as God’s natural laws that govern the functions of life. Physical hunger pangs compel us to eat. I believe that we have spiritual hunger pangs as well that compel us to wonder and to chew slowly on Scripture, savoring each nugget of truth in order for every fiber of our beings to draw from Divine life.

In Matthew 15, Jesus uses the metaphor of food when speaking of healing. But the healing from demonic oppression that the woman’s daughter received was not physical, although I believe we can apply physical healing into this revelation. In this particular story, not just the daughter was healed. The mother was too. Certainly the daughter’s healing within that hour was spectacular for her and those who knew her. However, both mother and daughter received mental and emotional healing, cultural healing and the healing of their identities. Jesus’ answer to the mother’s request and his compliment about the completeness of her belief let her know that God is no respecter of persons when it comes to belief. Christians today understand this because when we are born again we become grafted into the Abrahamic covenant and its enumerable blessings. We get to “belong” based on our “belief”. Every human being is a creation of God. But not all are children of God. Belonging and being accepted by God as his child innately transcend our need for societal and cultural identity. Furthermore, Jesus’ posture – answering her request, giving her attention, ignoring the disciples’ recommendations to send her away, healed her emotionally and mentally.

As a Canaanite, she would’ve been conscious of the stares of the disciples, yet she mentally pushed through because the Holy Spirit had spoken to her that their teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, was different. Both mother and daughter had been encumbered by the sorrow, frustration and fear that the demon-possession brought.

How did the demon possession manifest? This is a point I cannot help to mention. We know from other passages in the Gospels that demons could bring physical and mental and emotional ailments. (Matthew 4:24; Matthew 9:23, Matthew 17:18; Mark 5) It really doesn’t matter whether the daughter had a demonically influenced disease or mental weakness because all of these situations cause great suffering. Nothing is too difficult for God. His “bread” is to give healing.

In another post, I intend to discuss the warrior-like persistence of a woman. The mother did not run away at the disciples’ suggestion. She held on tenaciously to a truth that she knew in her innermost being. Like a mother lion, this woman used the revelation of God’s goodness to pounce on and destroy that which was stealing the fullness of her daughter’s life. This revelation, like raw meat, she held in her teeth and would not. let. go.

God designed a woman’s body to naturally feed her unborn child through the lifeline of the umbilical cord. Revelation is our umbilical cord.  The mother first received revelation of God’s desire to heal. Yet she hadn’t received the next revelation that God actually wanted her to have more than crumbs. He gave her what she requested based on the revelation she had received up to that point.

I wouldn’t be surprised that this woman got the next revelation when the Apostle Paul went and preached to the Gentiles. Having tasted the crumbs, the reality that she could receive the whole loaf of bread like the children of Israel would have been her ultimate heart’s desire.

As children of God, have we begun to eat the full loaf of bread – spiritual nourishment – guaranteed to us through salvation? As partakers of the Abrahamic covenant, we have the the right to the full loaf but have we only eaten a few pieces?  I’ll shift this metaphorOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA slightly. Let’s be hungry for revelation that we haven’t had yet! Let’s not view God’s Words as a loaf of bread where every piece tastes the same. As we earnestly pursue the written Word we get to know and experience the presence of the living Word, Jesus Christ. After his ascension, Jesus released the Spirit of God to come and be with us and in us. Let’s ask God to whet our palettes with the desire to pursue his mysteries and unanswered questions. Let’s even seek to discover more than the small doses that one Sunday sermon gives! Lord, I want more than crumbs!

Through the Holy Scriptures God tantalizes our spiritual palettes with hints that He is better than the most benevolent human being, He is more beautiful than the setting sun, and He is more faithful than the sunrise.  We cannot help but delve deeper and begin to swallow, first passages that are easy for our human understanding to comprehend, then later divine realities that answer our most difficult questions and satisfy our mysterious spiritual longings.

Humankind was created by an uncreated Being whose depths are unsearchable yet who beckons us to search.  His nature is soon discovered and as we learn how to interact with him by sitting in silent wonder, singing heartfelt praise or studying his digestible Word, we are changed. We are transformed. (Romans 12) We consent to belong to him — forever a child needing His “revelatory insight”. images

He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 13:11

 

 

Lord, fill us with wonder as we read your Word and sit in your Presence. Let us not be satisfied with all that we’ve learned so far in the Bible, from sermons or through books. Give us the excitement and courage to venture into scriptures that we’ve wondered about. Lead us Holy Spirit to know you – as much as a human being can – in all your glory! Bring us revelation today. We want more than crumbs. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.