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Archive for July, 2016

power

Healing begins with a broken heart.  One who has never been broken often fails to recognize pain, need, hunger, loneliness, and poverty.  One who chooses to stay broken clings to the security of neediness and ignores the pain, need, hunger, loneliness, and poverty of others for his own.  But for the one who has been broken and healed, broken and has forgiven, broken and been forgiven – that one loves much.

The more a heart bleeds, the more potential it has for love to flow out, or, the more potential it has to sew itself shut and dwell in egotistical narcissism as long as possible.  The one who has been forgiven much, loves much.  The one who has been broken much either considers only itself and its every selfish need in bitterness and fear, or, considers the brokenness in others most of all.

There are so many things that God has shown me over the last 19 days.  There are so many things He has done in me and through me during this time.  It would take a book to explain it all.  Maybe one day I will take that journey.  Or, if you ask me, I would love to tell you all about it.  For today, I have just a few truths to share.

I am so extremely, amazingly, beautifully humbled and thankful for the glimpses of glory I have seen so clearly recently.  These days He has given to me have each felt like Christmas – Christmas Eve, even.  Each day has been met with great anticipation, wide-eyed wonder, and undeserved, unbelievable gifts.

But, it began with brokenness.  The more my bright eyes beheld, the more my heart began to break.  The need in every life everywhere is overwhelmingly great.  As I sought to help and hoped to heal, I was given the greatest gift I have ever known – a gift I had not even asked for.  That gift is joy.  Real, true, unadulterated joy.  Joy inside.  Joy despite.  Joy deep.  Joy uninterrupted.

There can be absolutely no doubt this gift was given to me by God himself through the laying on of hands and prayers of a faithful, fearless fellow Christian.  Never once before this time have I ever experienced such freedom and freshness in my faith.  What God did through the prayers of his servant was nothing short of miraculous.

Not only was I immediately emptied of angst and worry, I was immediately filled with joy unlike that which I had ever known.  I was also given a great desire and urgency to pray constantly.  Me- a girl who writes books about why I cannot seem to pray and struggles to pray at all.

But now, God.  Now, GOD! God leads my prayers in a way I have never known before in nearly twenty years of Christianity.   God is using my prayers to lead and direct me to people and places and actions and needs like never before.  He has given me a great boldness to both pray and preach the gospel to anyone and everyone who will listen.  He has taken away my fear.  He is showing me things I should and would not know.  I know beforehand things I later come to see.  He is moving me, guiding my every step by His Spirit and confirming his direction with unmistakable signs and wonders.  And I am amazed like I have never been amazed before.  And if you will not ask me about it I will tell you anyway because you can’t make this stuff up and God will have glory because of it.

He gave me new knowledge, new eyes, new compassion, new strength, new joy, and yes, even a brand new life growing inside of me all at the same time.  God gave me rest in the earthly realm and realness in the spiritual one.  His message was one of comfort, joy, healing, and hope.  Judgement, restoration, and revival are what he has shown to me.  Joy, healing, and powerful, effective prayer are what he has given to me.

God does not want His people to be stagnant.  He is moving and His people are to be moving.  He is moving his people.  Still water is dead water.  Stagnant water is diseased water.  God is building his house in great power – and that power is prayer.  His living water will be rushing through it at all times lest he shut the doors and close it up.  He spits out pretense and all who set themselves up against his purposes through prayer.  God seeks to demolish strongholds and bring boldness to his people through prayer.

The seeds are planted firmly in the ground.  May the Lord bring a great harvest of hope, healing, and regeneration through obedience to public and private prayer and the laying on of hands.  May it be what he uses to break the spirit of pride, pretense, rigidity, and position in our families, churches, communities, governments, and nations.  Amen.

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Nothing but gratitude and respect for this guy!

“A message from the Lord that he impressed upon my heart was this: “Jesus really loves me and enjoys me and gives me freedom to enjoy life with no fear.”

Bringing people into the reality of that statement is ultimately the goal of ministry. It implies and relies upon the constant presence of Jesus to reveal himself and make alive.”

Craig Stephans

I completed two weeks plus of residency in pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY.  The campus is a picturesque setting this time of year, as is the surrounding countryside.  God has brought together a diverse group of 55 or so men and women in ministry from all parts of the globe.  Many states of the US are represented as well as Australia, Philippines, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Israel, Liberia, Nigeria, England, Ireland and Canada.  At the first session of orientation, we had assigned seating.  Beside me happened to be a pastor from Ohio, Brian, who grew up in Edenton, NC and whose parents met while attending ECSU, a local college.  Beside him was Simon, an Anglican priest from the Province of Kenya who, of course, knows our friend Qampicha Wario, now Bishop of the Diocese Marsabbit and “one of our best bishops” according to Simon.

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The three…

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Today, the third day since the healing began (just like the last time)  the pastor spoke about a prideful king whom God brought low, stripped of his securities and idols , and afflicted with a mental disorder.  I am that king.  I am the prideful one who worshiped self.  I am the violent one who sat on a throne of anger against God’s people.  I am the arrogant one who oppressed His anointed.  I am the lowliest one whom he has chosen to use and restore after a time of severe judgement.  I was prideful and angry at God and his people.  I was humbled and brought low by his judgement.  I have been miraculously restored by his amazing grace.  I know this is true.

When the sermon came to a close and pastor spoke the name “Jesus” many times in the conveying of the gospel, each time I felt the Holy Spirit physically act inside my body.  The power I felt as the name of Jesus was spoken at this time is inexplicable.

It is no coincidence that today, the daughter that was not to exist was dedicated to the Lord.  This one – who came years after a physical surgery preventing her.  This one – who came just one year after a marriage thought surely lost.  This one – a Son-ny whom God promised before she was even physically possible or logically believable.  This one – who moments after birth fell silent at her Daddy’s calm voice.

Neither is it a coincidence that afterward I saw my spiritual father at a picnic where I brought blackberry pie and picked wild ones.  Daddy was there.  Father God was there.  Redemption is here.  Restoration is complete.  I am free.  That, friends, is how God heals the broken.

As I write, my 11 year old daughter cries because she thinks her Daddy is sleeping.  She thinks he has forgotten about her and all their plans to finish building a chicken coupe.  She does not know I have already told him to attend to her.  She does not know he is awake.  She does not know he has not forgotten and cannot wait to go outside and work with her as long as it is Day .  “Why don’t you go wake him up?” I ask.  “He won’t.”  “How do you know?”  “Because I know him.”

No you don’t.  I did not know either of my fathers the way I wish I would have.  One slept for sickness and one I thought was sleeping for neglect.  I was wrong.  I have learned not to presume upon His grace or lack thereof any longer, though.  My Father is not, nor ever was he sleeping.  He wants me to come jump on the bed and tell him how much I cannot wait to do with him every single day.  I will be silent at his calm voice.  I am, after all, the daughter who was promised to a Son long before it was either logical or believable.

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The next day, I prayed again.  I went early to a triathlon race where I ran into a man who had acted as a father figure to me for several years in my mid twenties.  I had not seen this man in quite some time but ten years ago he taught me to swim and trained me for my first marathon.  He always encouraged me like a dad would.

As I got into the pool I realized my goggles were not adjusted right as my kids use them often.  I tried to fix them, but every time I swam a stroke, water entered into my eyes.  I made several attempts but I could not get them right.  I began to swim backstroke instead because I cannot stand water in my eyes.

As I swam, I thought about how I must live this way.  I must live looking up at all times or I am going to be completely blind.  God was teaching me.

When I began the bike portion of the race, I saw a church marquee that read, “Faith for your decisions, Part 2.” I literally laughed out loud because I knew what God was saying.  I have not made my decisions in faith in the past.  Part 1 was not faithful.  But he is opening a new chapter for me concerning how to follow him in true and saving faith.

I biked for several miles and just as I entered a hollow of shade trees, I thought of my dad.  Every time I go through a hollow on a country road, I think of him because when he got sick (when I was 11) we always took 857 to Morgantown to visit him.  I knew when we went though the hollow we were close to seeing daddy – whom I missed terribly.  I knew God would show up.  Just as I entered the hollow and thought of daddy, my friend who had taught me to swim and distance run appeared from around the bend coming the other way.  “Good job, Lori,” he said.  Those are words I never really got to hear from my dad.  What are the chances that he would enter that hollow coming from the other way at that very moment? It was not a coincidence. God, my Father whom I have missed so much was meeting me.

As I was running, I was coming onto the track toward the finish and a song I associate with the excommunication came on.  Next, a song I associate with a severed relationship from the dark period came on.  The two darkest realities I faced over two years ago were both associated with a song and both songs played at the finish of this race.  God was speaking.  He was in that and he is in this – healing.  He showed me that it is finished.

After I finished my father-like friend gave me a hug and said, “I’m proud of you.”  That’s what daddy would have said if he were there.

The doctor told me the reason God wants to heal me is for freedom.  So I will be free from anxiety and worry and discouragement and sin.  The race was put on by an organization known as “Faith in action” – a Christian hospice and home care agency.  Their sign at the end of the race had their motto which read, “A neighbor’s independence depends on you.”

Freedom .  Independence.  Mine and yours.  That is why I am sharing this awesome, bizarre, crazy story with you.  God wants to give us freedom from fear, discouragement, depression, and anxiety.  I know beyond the shadow of a doubt he does.

As I drove home I noticed a cloud in the sky that was shaped like a heart and  – I kid you not – inside that cloud was a brighter white cloud in the form of a “u.”  Love u.  It was God.  No doubt.  Not a moment later a huge billboard read, “Who is Jesus” in all caps and another said, “A father is who picks you up after you fall.”  Then I entered back into Pennsylvania from West Virginia and the sign said, “Welcome to Pennsylvania, state of independence.”  Did you know that was our motto?? I didn’t.  I thought we were the keystone state or something.  God was lavishing his love upon me, assuring me as my father, giving me freedom, and bringing me back home.  That is what he is doing.  I have no doubt no matter how unreal this all sounds to other people.

I was so smitten and overwhelmed by God’s love by this point that I literally missed my exit and did not realize it for many miles.  When I finally realized that I was lost, I got on the toll road and came home a completely different, longer way.  As I came past a church the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly to me and said, “Go to that church and pray for the person who is there.”

I second guessed several times but knew the command was clear.  I am not one to do this kind of thing – ever.  I have, but it has probably been fifteen years since – back in those early days when I trusted God like a child.  So, I reluctantly turned around telling myself surely no one will be there at noon on a beautiful Saturday.  No one in sight, so I pulled behind the church to turn around and a man sat on a lawn mower right in front of me.

I stalled a few moments wondering if I should just leave or pretend I needed directions but God said, “Pray for that man!”  So I got out and told him I was reformed but God made me.  He was the pastor and said the man who cuts grass was ill that day.  God wanted to encourage that man through me.

Later that night we went out to dinner for a friend’s birthday and to hear a band.  About halfway through the night, back behind the band I noticed a picture hanging on the wall at a table set back by itself.  As I got closer I realized the picture was of a red bird in the woods.  When I run I always look for red birds because they remind me of my dad.  I used to specifically ask the Lord to show me a red bird when I was thinking of my dad and he often would.

I have no doubt that these seeming coincidences are really and truly God moving in my life to restore, heal, and use me for his glory.

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The night before I was called to repentance, my thoughts were on my earthly father.  I was playing softball as we always did when I was young and I had a moment where I felt as though he was actually there with me.  Thinking of him on my way home, I saw a street sign that read, “Lewis Dr.” Lewis was my maiden name.  At that point I felt that my father was with me, just like I did while I was at the ball field and I began to remember a particular memory where he and I laid in the grass outside and looked up at the stars together.  It is one of my favorite memories of my dad.

The following day the man who told me God wanted to heal me (the doctor) told me to repent of my excuses and take time to sit still and pray each day.  That night I took my shoes off, stood in the grass, and I prayed.  I sat down on the porch and watched the sky.  I realized, but not until this point exactly, that I was told by the doctor to do exactly what I had done with my dad so many years ago.  A few moments later, I saw a shooting star move swiftly across the sky.  My husband and I began to talk about the shooting star and I shared how the first time I had ever seen one was with my dad.  I remember it vividly.  My dad had been drinking.  He did not drink often, and even more rarely in front of me,  but on this particular occasion, he was drunk.We had been at a Halloween party and it just so happened to be my birthday.  My mom was driving which is significant because my mom never drove when my dad was in the car.  My dad always drove.  This time, my mom drove and me and daddy watched the sky.  A shooting star moved across the sky and we took note of the time.  It was 10:30 p.m. on 10/30 – October 30, my birthday.  The star fell at 10:30 on 10/30.  Maybe that is why I remember it.

After I talked with my husband for a few minutes and shared this story about how the first time I saw a shooting star was with my dad, and he was drunk, and all about the party and how I was dressed up as a clown and my brother a devil and how he drove us into the woods because he had had too much to drink, probably out of sheer curiosity, he picked up his phone to look at the time.  It was 10:36 p.m.  That star we saw the other night fell at 10:30 p.m.

At that very moment, I remembered how after I had left the doctor’s office that day – after being told to pray – I said a prayer in the truck before pulling out.  I asked God to speak to me and I turned on the radio.  I put on WORD FM to maybe hear a sermon but all I got was static so I changed it.  The song I heard first was , “Drunk on Your Love.”  The Holy Spirit came over me and I began to cry tears of joy.  I knew God was speaking to me about how much he loved me and I could physically feel his love and joy pouring into me in a way I have never experienced before.  This went on for more than 15 minutes or better and I understood it as God’s divine healing for me.  When I saw the shooting star later that night and was reminded of my father being drunk when we saw my first one, I felt my entire body freeze up in utter disbelief.  When I heard the song I did not know yet about the star I was about to see.  When I spoke of his drunkenness I did not think anything about the song until after Tim checked the time.  At that point I felt like I was in the movie interstellar where the father was talking to his daughter from light years away in space.  It was a surreal moment in which I almost felt afraid – not scared, rather, known and as one who had just seen something unmistakably supernatural.

I was listening to a song called “Invisible City” afterward and I decided to look up the meaning of what an invisible city was or if there was a legend about it.  The invisible city was a city who, when under attack did not move or prepare to fight, rather bowed and prayed, and sunk down under the water where their enemies would never find them again.

 Coincidence?  No. Confirmation.  God is calling me to be serious about prayer and he is showing himself time and again to strengthen my faith and so that I and those around me might believe.

 

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As I hid myself and my six month old in the church’s cry room to nurse and listened to the band rehearse over the speaker, I thought.  What a perfect place to worship.

How often do I come to church and speak to everyone but God?  How often do I come to His Word and write about him without talking to him first?  I mean, what if I came to your house twice a week but never spoke to you?  What kind of a friend does that?  Better yet, what kind of daughter does that?

A prideful one.  An arrogant one.  A full of herself fool does that.  A rebellious teenage-minded one.

For the past, well, I am not even sure how many years it has been now.  Let’s say four, maybe, although it may indeed be more like 6-10 if I get real honest.  For the past four years my relationship with my heavenly Father has been troubled.  Troubled because of trials. Troubled because of trust issues.  Troubled because of tiredness.  Troubled because of self-reliant trying.

I tend to go into self-protect mode and function as a selective mute when I am hurting; when I do not trust; when I cannot understand.  God is not a father who takes well to teenage talklessness, though.  God is a father who has a way of taking me to task when my pouting and pretense become terribly unpretty.

Familiarity breeds contempt.  God will not have me living under his roof without correction.

For two years I pouted and glared.  For two years I turned a cold shoulder heavenward.  For two years I attended church, Bible study, read and wrote on the Bible daily with nary much of a word or two sent up in faith.  I claimed I did not know how to pray.  I studied the psalms intensely.  I wrote on every single one searching for a supposed answer to my prayer problem.  A year went by and still no speaking.  Not to him.  Not about truth.  Maybe for you.  Maybe for food.  But not about the truth.  What I had was not a knowledge problem.  What I had was an obedience problem.

The truth was too terrible.  It was too terrifying.  I was too angry, too depressed, too discouraged, and too temperamental to talk to a God I no longer trusted about the truth in my heart.

Another year went by wherein I worked harder than I had ever done  to earn his favor – which I thought I had most certainly lost somewhere along the way.  I worked and worked and worked for the approval of his people who, in his divine judgement on me for my pride in self-sufficient works, trampled every last effort until they were all completely obliterated.

I was wrongfully, yet sovereignly, excommunicated.  I left the church.  I left my marriage.  I departed from the truth altogether for a desperately dark time.

Six months later I ran into an old friend who was now a pastor.   Since that time the Lord has been relentless on his mission to restore me.  He took me back under his roof.  He redeemed my marriage.  He restored my spiritual life.  And today, I fully believe he has finally closed the darkest chapter of my life.

A month ago I met a man who told me God wanted to heal me.  He told me to pray.  He told me unorthodox things like to stand in the grass with no shoes on and wait on and feel the presence of God.  He told me stop making excuses about stopping to spend silence with Jesus.  So I did.  Just two days ago, I did.  For the first time in a long time, I sat completely still.  I folded my hands.  I bowed my head and I prayed to God.  I listened and he spoke.  I spoke and he listened.

I put my feet in the grass, I looked up at the night sky, and I prayed.  He spoke to me as a father in ways whose explanation elude me almost completely.  With equal intensity, he placed a burning in my heart to tell someone – anyone who will listen.

I believe he may be calling me to write a book concerning the details of my journey of faith and faithlessness.  In the mean time, I am going to try to share some of the moments God has given me over the past week in the next few posts. He has been reminding me over and over and over and over again of my earthly father with many convincing proofs.  I believe he is reassuring me that HE is my Father who loves me, calling me to some kind of ministry, and giving me a gift.  I do not fully understand all of what God is doing in and through me at this time but I do know a few things for sure: it is real, it is God, and it is more amazing than anything I have ever experienced.  Praise Him!

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For the first time in 14 years, I stood in the outfield. I stood in the outfield remembering. As the ball was pitched and the bases run, I remembered.  I remembered a simpler time, a wholesome world, and a good man with whom I enjoyed a place just like this.

The older I get the more I realize how much of a gift reminiscence is.  Remembering.

I love people of every color. I love protectors of every kind. There is only ONE side in this spiritual war our beloved country finds itself engaged in: LOVE. LOVE is the only house I will ever choose to live in. I love people.  Therefore,  I am so very sorry for what we lose every day through ignorance, anger, hate, and bitterness.  Surely, the Lord is calling us to remember.

We live in a world where nations rage and people plot in vain.  We live in a country where rulers set themselves and take counsel together against the Lord and his anointed.  We live communities where people kill each other based on beliefs, backgrounds, and bloodlines and where pastors and leaders avoid one another because they cannot agree on faith or doctrine or duty or delegation.  We live in churches divided by nepotism, preferences, pettiness, and pride.  We live in houses with absent daddies, desperate moms, and disrespectful, drug-laden children.  We live in bodies that set themselves daily upon idolatrous thrones and build our own kingdoms right over-top of the monuments made to make us remember God himself.  Surely, the Lord is calling us to remember.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
    and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy.
    What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
    you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people,
    the children of Jacob and Joseph. ~Psalm 77:11-15

There is a time for everything.  It is time to remember.  It is time to remember where we came from.  It is time to remember our one and only true God.  It is time to remember how to blush.  It is time to remember how to love.  And when the world does not follow, it is time to mourn.  Surely, there is a time for everything and now is the time to mourn.

You hold my eyelids open;
    I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
    the years long ago.
I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
    let me meditate in my heart.”
    Then my spirit made a diligent search:
“Will the Lord spurn forever,
    and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
    Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
    Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” ~Psalm 77:4-9

I will appeal to the Lord.  I will remember the Lord.  I will mourn.  This, for us, for our homes, for our churches, for our communities, for our country, for our world.

I love people of every color. I love protectors of every kind. There is only ONE side in this spiritual war our beloved country finds itself engaged in: LOVE. LOVE is the only house I will ever choose to live in. I love people.  Therefore,  I am so very sorry for what we lose every day through ignorance, anger, hate, and bitterness.  We have a beautiful, strong, great country.  Each day we lose that great nation a little bit more.  Surely, the Lord is calling us to remember and repent.  Amen.

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