Sunday, November 26, 2017

Anxiety to Anticipation


I want to tell you about a little breakthrough I just had. My hope is that by following along with my experience your thoughts and heart might also be stirred in a helpful way. But in order to tell you about that I need to give you a little background. 

I am currently reading Kris Vallotton / Bill Johnson's book The Supernatural Ways of Royalty as part of my studies at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.
The premise of the book is that when we becoming Christians we are “born again” as literal children of God - with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of being in the divine / royal family. It might be easy to give lip service to this belief, but it is often unintuitive to know the implications of this reality in practical life. 

“Imagine” the book directs us, “that you had been appointed as president of the United States, but didn't understand the responsibilities of that role. What might happen?” It would be a mess! Or at least, there would be lots of opportunities missed because of mismanagement due to ignorance. This book was written to instruct Christian princess and princess as to the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of our role.

One of the early lessons of the book is the power of our thought life. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it is the well spring of life.” What fills your head will fill your heart and eventually fill your life.

The work book directed me to take a survey of what I habitually think about ("meditate on") and note particularly what emotions are tied to each thought pattern. I noticed some trends. My common thoughts fell into two categories:

1. Rehearsing concerns, tasks that need to be done, things looming over my head, potential problems, unknown futures etc. These thoughts are associated with stress, fear, and discouragement.

2. Using the screen of my imagination to rewatch movies, TV shows, or old memories. These thoughts are associated with comfort, distraction, entertainment, pacification.

Hmmmmmmmm

No wonder I experience continual underlying stress... Regardless of my circumstances, my thought life is perpetuating emotions of stress, punctuated with emotions of avoidance! Even thinking about this is stressing me out... ;)

The next paragraph of the work book provided a solution, the famous passage from Philippians:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus...”

The verse went on to describe what we SHOULD be thinking about, but I stopped there.

What am I anxious about? I wondered. Well, I thought timidly, I am in a state of constant tension because of the money needed for my Russia missions trip. (Which I have not started to fundraise for.) Ok, I thought. Let's follow the formulaWith thanksgiving, present your requests to God....

Dear God, I prayed. Thank you...

Thank you for meeting all my financial needs beyond what I asked or imagined. Thank you for supplying the money needed for every single mission trip I have ever gone on! Thank you for providing money for my dental work, for tuition, for a car. Thank you for providing me a wonderful job that meets my needs so beautifully. Thank you for blessing me such that I can freely give. I love to get to be the one to deliver your provision, like a child handing out Dad's presents at Christmas. Thank you!

As I thanked Him and meditated on how richly and abundantly I have been blessed, I could feel an internal shift from fear to confidence, from frustration/discouragement to joy, from shame (at being needy) to wonder at being loved.

Then came the “present your requests” part.

I asked very simply, Lord God, would you please supply the $2900 needed for me to go on the mission trip to Russia? Thank you. To my surprise, however, I found I wasn't done. The money no longer seemed the only (or most important) request.

Lord, would you please also raise up a team to partner with me in prayer? And please provide the resources and experiences for me to prepare so I can be ready for the opportunities to minister powerfully on the trip? Please knit me together with the team and please prepare our hearts and the hearts of those we will meet in Russia. Please arrange divine encounters and appointments....

It was never really about the money.

Yes, dollars and cents are necessary in that they function as door keepers, letting us in or keeping us out of opportunities. But when we have the ear of God, money does not deserve to be the focal point of our prayers! Once I lay that need before the Lord I could look beyond it.

Lord, I willingly give my physical obedience, my time, my presence – the trip organizers and host ministries are diligently preparing the opportunity – And together we are setting up the ball for you to spike! May thy will be done!

“....Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever is noble, what ever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, and of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” (Phil 4:6-8) 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Courage Dear Heart


While in prayer this morning I was thinking about how “living from the future” empowers me to fully appreciate the present. I'd like to share with you three revelations on this topic which, for me, unlock much courage, joy, and thankfulness. Here we go!

When I was a child my mom taught me a mind exercise. She led me to imagine that some unexpected disaster had just happened – a bomb dropped, or my house burned down etc. Suddenly life will never be the same again, all the little comforts of “normal life” suddenly abolished, very possibly loved ones gone forever.

“If that were to happen,” my mom prompted me, “the only thing you would want with all you heart is to just turn back the clock one day, just have your family alive and safe and happy again. 'Normal' life would seem like a paradise, like a dream come true.” At that point, my mom snapped us out of the imagined heartache. We looked around and realized that we got our wish.

Via this exercise, throughout my life I have reminded myself of the extreme blessing of simply having “normal” life without disaster. I am reminded to cherish and delightfully thank God for every moment of good health, safety, happy loved ones, and sweet peace.

Selah

The other day in my BSSM small group we meditated on Psalm 139 (the famous verse that talks of God's intimate knowledge about us.) One verse stood out to me: “All the days ordained for me were recorded in your book before one of them came to be.” Ps 139:16.

I was struck with an impression of my life as a multi-season television series, perhaps like Friends or The Office. Every day is an episode. God, who loves the show, has seen the entire series (perhaps multiple times) and knows the show inside and out. Now He is watching it again with me!

God has been waiting my whole life to experience with me the episode called “Today”. He has seen the entire series and knows how everything works out so He has no anxiety about any of it, just affection for me and the other characters. Amid the excitement of God getting to share this beloved episode of His “show” with me, I also got a sense of bitter sweet nostalgia. “Today” might seem common to me, but He loves this episode and we will only experience it together ONCE. So lets enjoy every precious minute of it.

Selah

Finally, Bill Johnson and a couple other teachers at Bethel have recently been referencing the value of rejoicing about provision/breakthrough etc BEFORE it happens.

“How many of you have at least one problem in your life?” Bill asked the class yesterday. “Ok, now how many of you believe that God already has a solution in mind for this problem? Good. Then lets thank Him for that solution!”

I remember a day soon after returning to the USA after three years in Japan. I sat at the kitchen table and wept inconsolably. My broken heart seemed to be bleeding out of my eyes. As I sat there, contemplating the tatters of my heart, my faith, and my hopes, a whisper as though from the future came to my mind.

“Imagine...” the gentle voice whispered, “...imagine the time in the future when all is well, when God has vindicated Himself gloriously, when ashes are turned to beauty and your life is a testimony of God's victorious triumph....how then will you wish you had behaved today? Trust Him now as is fitting then. Courage, dear heart...”

I don't remember exactly how I responded at that moment, (I'm sure the tears continued to flow,) but to this day I am reminded that every currently unresolved issue is a temporary opportunity for praise and trust before God's faithfulness and goodness is vindicated. When the time comes, I want to be able to say to the world, “See! I told you so!” rather than having God say it to me...

In conclusion:

As Thanksgiving day draws near, let us breath deep of today. Let us recognize and appreciate the very great blessings which are so easy to take for granted: Lack of pain in our bodies, healthy loved ones, and the peaceful stability of life which seems so assured but is in actuality so fragile. Let us also remember that all our days are already written and this one is precious, never to be repeated. And finally, though problems and concerns exist, if we trust that God DOES have solutions in mind, the problems are as good as solved! Let us thank and praise and trust Him now, as someday we will wish we had.
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!” Phil 4:4

“Be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess 5:16-18
 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Most Memorable


"What was your most memorable birthday?” Thani asked. We leaned against the railing of Sundial bridge, watching our friends play “Ninja” at around 11pm on my 28th birthday.

“That's a hard one...” I answered.

I've had a lot of really good birthdays in my life. When I was six, I experienced a 10 day long birthday marathon culminating in a visit from BARNEY THE DINOSAUR! Another year, my parents gave me carte blanche to “make a wish”, and they would grant it. I wished for a pet parakeet. 

Then there were the various birthdays in Japan, all full to the brim with loving celebration, one year even including a massive surprise party. Its gotten to the point, in fact, that I try to fly under the radar because I am a bit embarrassed to be made so much of...

This year was no exception. 

Though I am in a new city again, complete with new community, my 28th birthday was a non stop flood of loving messages, gifts, hugs, smiles, affection, appreciation, and general love. My friend Melody met me before school with a card and gift. Miriam (a new friend) gave me homemade painting. And before school started, my revival group got everyone in the auditorium to start singing happy birthday.

And to top it all off, the day of my birthday we happened to have a “Revival Group Costume Party”. Someone brought a cake and candles and the singing happened all over again. My night closed out with games and prophetic words till almost midnight at Sundial Bridge. (Which was when Thani asked me the question.) Even though it was a chilly evening, surrounded by loving friends, I was warm inside and out.
 And that is just the beginning of the story.

Several weeks ago my friend Jordan called me up. “Lucy and I want to plan a surprise for your birthday. We were wondering if you could reserve the day off work? Actually we wondered if you could take off all weekend...”

I felt incredibly loved. As the day came got closer, Jordan told me to be ready by 11am Friday morning.

I was very glad Jordan didn't ask me to be ready any earlier. It was so sweet to simply rest and nurse a cup of coffee in the peaceful silence. Just when I was thinking of dipping into my homework, my sister Tiffany called. She wanted to hear how my birthday had been. I knew Jordan's surprise would be kicking off relatively soon, so I decided to give up on homework and talk with my sister. As I was just starting to wax eloquent, there was an abrasive knock on the door. Jordan must be here early, I thought. “Hold on, Tiff, someone is at the door.”

It was not Jordan.

It was (no joke) a living, human infant in a BASKET. (Full on, Moses style.) The baby looked up at me with a puzzled expression, as though I were the one who had surprised HIM! 
The baby was dressed in blue, a shock of black hair visible underneath a white and polka dotted hat. In his fat hands, the baby held an envelope addressed to me! (Though my last name was misspelled.)

One of the most surreal moments of my life.
 
“Tiff, can I put you on video chat? You have got to see this!”
“Tiff, it's dressed as a boy but he is so pretty, it almost looks like a girl. How do I tell? Tiff, what do I do??" and before she could answer, I went on, "Oh good! They left some formula in the basket. I'm going to need that. He looks a lot like your baby, Lucy,” I told Tiffany. “Except not as fat.”

“How about you read the card.” Tiffany suggested wryly.

It was a Congratulations to the New Mother card. "Please take care of my baby boy."
Looking back, it is amazing that I was not at all concerned.

I remember was thinking, “I should close the front door so they will be less likely to come take this baby away from me.” I was laughing and cuddling the baby and not thinking straight. It had to be some kind of prank – Jordan must've found someone who was willing to lend him their baby for the weekend. Such a pretty baby... My new baby.
I should've closed the door. 

Sure enough, footsteps and then someone was walking through the door, calling my name and, still streaming the video call on my phone, I was hearing double. Tiffany was in my living room! Come to reclaim baby Lucy who, it turns out, looks fatter in her photos than in real life.

Happy birthday!! I'm here to pick you up and take you to lunch and then back to Jordan's for the weekend!” Tiffany had materialized from VIRGINIA. Jordan was right behind her bearing two cups of hot chocolate and the diaper bag.

What a day!! What a surprise. What a birthday.

For weeks I'd been wishing wishing wishing that Tiffany could visit NOW rather than in the spring. (Later Tiffany said, when I kept saying that, she thought I'd figured out the surprise already, but the truth is I had no idea.)

I was awash with happiness. Jordan had to go to work, but Tiffany whisked me away to join my friend Lucy (baby Lucy's namesake) at Tokyo Garden, for lunch. I rarely eat there because it seems too luxurious to spend that kind of money on food, but today was an exception. To start, I ordered miso soup, edamame, seaweed salad, and a celebratory bottle of hot sake.

As we started to eat, my brother Tobias called! I picked up the phone, planning to wish HIM a happy birthday (we share a birthday) and then ask if I could call him back later. Unfortunately, the connection was a bit distorted; I caught that he and our other brother Carlos were together, then I lost the call. When Toby called back, I shamelessly pressed “Ignore”. I'll call him back later, I told myself.

Just then, the fabric of reality momentarily ripped from top to bottom and two men spilled out into my lap. 

Everyone was yelling “Surprise!” and “Happy birthday!!” and then I was standing in the middle of the restaurant (where I work) screaming and hugging both my brothers - there in the flesh, warm and solid and real. I pulled away to check that it was really them, then hugged them some more!

I actually thought, (for a split second,) that they had found a way to teleport – that seemed more likely than that they had purchased tickets and traveled for 12 hours over night from Virginia to spend a weekend with me in California.

Before it could even occur to me, Tiffany leaned over and whispered, “And as for our visit in the spring, this is in addition not instead.” 

“This calls for more sushi!” I concluded.

And that was how it started – my most memorable birthday.
Me (28) Carlos (23) Tiffany (26) Tobias (22)
 The weekend was a wonderful blur after that. (We did very little, actually, given how short the time was.) Friday night Jordan hosted us and I had the great joy of introducing my sister and brothers to Thani and Melody, two of my favorite people here in Redding.
The next day, Saturday, we spent the first half the day at the Bethel Healing Rooms. I actually haven't heard back from my siblings as to whether there were any long term effects for them, but my ear canals (which have been clogged with scaly, scabby stuff for years) miraculously cleared up completely. Another healing room blessing was, though my brothers didn't get to meet my friend Christoph, it turned out that Christoph was the one to pray with Carlos, so they did get to meet after all!

Saturday afternoon we all felt a bit ill, so we took it kind of easy. We took a walk near my house and finished out the day with Mod Pizza and then more hanging out at Jordan's pad. The next day we attended Bethel morning service. I thought the service was rather mediocre, but my siblings seemed to really approve and enjoy, which made me feel really pleased and blessed.
After lunch it was time for the Noyes kids to catch their flight back to VA. Whirlwind weekend, sweeping to a close as quickly as it came. 
Thoughts:

1. Finding the baby on my doorstep was one of the most disorientingly surreal thing I've ever experienced, with Carlos and Toby's appearance being a close on its heels. When I got home from the weekend I saw the forgotten basket on my floor. For a whisper of a second, I thought, “Where is my baby...” :P Estrogen.

2. I am insanely proud of my siblings. They are all so dynamic, so smart, so deep, so loving, so gracious, so funny, so much fun to be around, such great conversationalists, so thoughtful and intentional and humble.... I am so proud of them I can barely bare it! 

I want to show them off to EVERYONE. I want everyone to share my joy. The biggest frustration of the weekend was the lack of time and opportunity to get to introduce them to more of my friends. Even as it was, after my siblings went home, I got three or four messages from people saying, “I just adore your family.” :)

3. Even though I love my siblings as much as I love anyone in the world, during their visit, I realized I don't treat them as well as I would like to. It was very surprising to me, but I found myself getting a bit stressed and speaking somewhat snappishly to them, particularly on Saturday afternoon. I don't know what my problem was... But it did serve as a lesson to me that I have a lot of growing to do in learning to love people better.

I am so grateful for my life. I am grateful for the memories, for the friendships, for the overflowing favor, and for the lessons. I am grateful for the beauty, the adventure, the comedy, and even the occasional tragedy (grateful for what has been learned, and grateful for the merciful grace throughout.) I am grateful for opportunities to learn, stretch, grow, and give. I am grateful for family and for friends, especially for MY family and MY friends. I wonder sometimes if ever there was ever anyone as blessed as I. And, as I've said before, having received SO MUCH, may I ever be quick and eager to consistently consider others, give generously, extend grace, not judge, lavishly forgive, and genuinely love.

Freely I have received, gratefully I give.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Samaritan Story


10.7.17

I overheard a fellow BSSM student talking about the significance of hearing the Word of God audibly, so this week I started doing my daily Bible reading out loud. Today I told/listened to the story of Jesus with “the woman at the well.” (John 4:1-42) Amazing, the difference today compared to other times I've heard the story...

First, I noticed how unusual it was for someone to stumble upon Jesus alone. Jesus, the one who gives crowds the slip in order to have a moment to himself. Jesus, whom everyone wanted a piece of, a word from, a moment with. Jesus, who chose certain people to invest time in. And yet, by (seemingly) random chance, this Samaritan woman (who herself was trying to avoid people) happens to bump into Jesus in one of the rare moments when he is alone. Its like a slapstick moment in a comedy! 

She has just stumbled into a private audience with the greatest religious celebrity of the day. And to make her situation all the more incredible, He INITIATES an interaction with her! Will you give me a drink? He asks her. I almost faint with excitement and jealousy at the thought of it! What an incredible honor... He didn't have to interact with her at all, but instead He invites her to minister to Him.

The hilarious and ridiculous thing is, she has no idea that He is anything special. She treats Him with normal guardedness and a bit of suspicion. Why do you ask me for a drink? Since you are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. In my jealousy I think, “Pearls before swine...” but Jesus must've actually found it quite refreshing.

He gently reproves her, hinting at what she doesn't realize. (My paraphrase.) If you knew the Gift of God that asks you for a drink, you would've asked ME and I would've given you living water.  They banter a bit and finally the woman takes the bait. Sir, give me this 'living' water so I wont have to keep coming to this well.

I can just see Jesus looking at her thoughtfully. I can almost feel Him considering how to respond to her innocently ignorant request for “magic water”. Can He take it as official invitation to give her the Holy Spirit?

Suddenly the moment is brought crashing to an end as He decisively makes His move. Go call your husband. 

I can feel her eyes grow wide with pain and anger. I see her pull back, bitterly angry at herself. How stupid she had been, to forget for even a moment that she is a woman and He a man, she a Samaritan and He a Jew; and furthermore, she is a failure at being “respectable” even among Samaritan women! She probably swore at herself inwardly, for forgetting, for even a moment, to continually expect rejection.

I can see her pull herself up straight, retaining as much dignity as she can, and answering vaguely, I have no husband.

To her surprise, He doesn't miss a beat. He doesn't retreat from acknowledging what she would like to hide. You have answered well! You have had five husbands and the man you are with now is not your husband. He is not afraid of the truth. He knew it all along and honored her with His attention anyway.

Only now does realization start to dawn on her. This is no ordinary man... This is a prophet, a man of God! 

I can feel the goose bumps go down her neck as she realizes at last that a rare opportunity sits in front of her. I feel her mixture of wounded pride and fascinated hope. He is a prophet! Is he a prophet? If He is a prophet, He will be able to answer this question that always bothered her – a question about whether the “way of her people” really is inferior to that of the Jews. If He isn't a prophet, this question will unmask him. IF He IS....

Our ancestors worshipped here on this mountain, but YOUR people say we should only worship in Jerusalem.

He understands the question and gives her a pretty straight answer (another rare honor.) You worship what you do not know; the Jews worship what we do know, for salvation IS from the Jews. But the time is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth, for that is the kind of worship God seeks.

I sense her resignation at this answer. He had given her something to think about for sure. He did not say she was wrong and the Jews were right. But He didn't say that her way was right either....

She sighs, almost to herself. When the Messiah comes, He will explain all this to us.

Then the big reveal. I who speak with you, I AM he.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(And from my vantage point 2000 years later, I can't help but shake my head in wonder. What another incredible honor, revealing to her plainly the Truth so many people tried to wheedle out of Him.)

“Just then, his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman.” John 4:27

Private interview over – it ended just like that. The woman hastily takes what He has given her and rushes back to the town (leaving her bucket and physical water entirely forgotten.)  

The disciples shrug off the strange woman and turn their attention back to Jesus. Eat something, Rabbi. But Jesus is on cloud nine.

I have food you know nothing about He laughs and twinkles.  

Did someone else bring him food...? The disciples wonder to each other, completely missing the fun.  
My food, He explains graciously, is to do the work of my Father. Then again in a rapture He launches again into metaphor. You say 'four months then the harvest' but I say to you LOOK UP!! The fields are white for harvest!!

Meanwhile, the woman returns, full of excitement, to the town where she had previously hidden. Without a thought of fear or shame, she gathers a crowd. Come! See the man who told me everything I ever did. Could He be the Christ? 
  
The Bible says that people listened to her, and urged Jesus to stay with them (rather than simply pass through,) and many came to believe in Him. Later the townsfolk thanked the woman, We first believed because of what you said, but now we believe because we have seen for ourselves and we know this man really is the savior of the world.

Salvation has come to Samaria, praise be to God! 

Among so many towns Jesus visited, this Samaritan village recognized Him and welcomed Him and received His ministry. Can it be that from then on, Samaria became one of the first places to worship in spirit and in truth? I like to think so. 

Blessed are they who do not miss the moments of opportunity when God asks for a drink of water.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Things (I love) about God


Written 10.2.17

This past weekend was our BSSM Revival Group retreat, followed immediately by the Sunday night Twin View Bethel church service led by Richard and Libby Gordon.

One of my personal themes during the retreat (and the service) was “loving God like I love people I actually love". Over the past few days I've been realizing that I don't currently have the comfortable, enjoyment of God's company that I have for friends I actually enjoy. Also, I've realized that I don't naturally take pleasure in describing God, the way I absolutely glory in describing my siblings. For example, yesterday I spent about half an hour (or more) enthusiastically (almost rapturously) describing my siblings to the captive audience in the car as we road tripped back from retreat. I know I love my friends and siblings because I love to be around them and I love to praise them. There is ZERO sense of duty in their case - all desire and delight.

Several times recently it has occurred to me to think about “loving” God and “being loved” by God in terms of the five love languages. (Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Physical Touch.) I think that some people do not “feel loved” by God in worship services because that context does not speak to their love language. They (I) would feel more loved if they/I started to notice how God IS loving us in our language. On the flip side, what does loving God look like? How can I express love to Him in each of the languages? And what are His personal love languages? I assume He speaks all five of the normal human modes of expressing love, but perhaps He has others as well? For example, obedience is almost certainly one of His love languages. (John 14:15, 21, 23)

So fast forward to this morning. 

I sat down for my disciplined five minutes of intentional “offering” of worship. As I prepared to press the timer button on my phone I felt the normal fidgety discomfort – desire to yawn, itchy distraction, thoughts of other things I could/should be doing etc. But dutifully I pressed the button and began. 

I decided to describe God in the manner that I would describe someone to a friend. Basically, I decided to tell what He is like, in my experience, and what I like about Him.  Half way through a thought, I was rudely interrupted by a beeping from my phone. With slight annoyance, I hit the button for five more minutes and returned eagerly to my description. This happened FOUR times. When I emerged from my dissertation, I found that almost 25 minutes had gone by. I almost cried. It had happened - I had enjoyed praising God, expressing “love” in my language.

So here, for your enlightenment and enjoyment, is my perspective of what God is like and what I like about Him (in the order of things that occurred to me this morning):

The first thing I notice about God is He is always around. His attention is always available. He is a really good listener in that He is ALWAYS listening and He is usually (at least somewhat) sympathetic. He empathizes really well.

Second, He is really helpful. He notices what I need (and what I like) and takes care of stuff. Sometimes He is so proactive about taking care of things that I am like, “Oh, ok... I was going to take care of that myself but, ok, thanks.” He goes ahead of me to pave the way and set up things to meet my needs for when I get there. He also does little things to bless me (like placing me in a prefecture in Japan that has musical theater for English teachers.) I really appreciate that.

Third, and related, during the most difficult seasons of my life (when I was most irate about my situation and feelings) He was the MOST gracious in meeting me where I was at. For example, after I had spent the morning questioning and complaining, I found an anonymous letter behind my desk addressed to “Dearest Daughter” which answered my heart in visible words I could read. Over and over again He provided the most tender comforts when I was most distressed. Though I didn't much appreciate it at the time, I look back now and feel awe.

Fourth, perhaps my favorite (most enjoyable) thing about God is how He loves people. I know this by experience; A couple times I felt His love for people who I did not personally love at all. When I feel His love for someone, it feels as though my eyes have been opened and suddenly I realize how intensely lovely/lovable the person is. It is as though the only objectively reasonable response is to passionately serve, bless, and celebrate the person – anything less seems so criminally ignorant and disrespectful. This is my favorite thing about God because it is so intensely enjoyable to be consumed with irrepressible, almost desperately urgent motivation/longing/desire to express affection (which is what it feels like). Also, this motivation results in actions which deeply bless the other person and lead to such beautiful, life-giving relationships. It is just so good for everyone!!! I love love love it when I can feel God's love for others.

Other things (I love) about God. He is so staunchly “Himself”. I love people who are firm in their identity. There is something so refreshing about it. When people are firm in their own identity/position, it liberates me to be myself as intensely as I like. It also gives me something to engage with and learn from. God is entirely unthreatened. And when He shines in His identity (goodness, righteousness, justice, mercy, grace, magnanimity etc,) it is awe inspiring.

Also He is so creatively energetic. It actually makes my head spin a bit. If you “tune in” to Him, you almost have to "pick a channel" among many, since at all times He is simultaneously engaged in EVERYTHING! He is simultaneously appreciating everything about creation, attentive to and working in every life, managing the second heaven war for history, and partnering with everyone's projects/efforts of all kinds. 

And for each of these categories of activity, He is simultaneously engaging on both micro and macro levels. (And to some degree, certain things are both micro and macro. For example, the salvation of John Wesley was micro in that it was the salvation of a single man, but also macro in that he was the kingpin in launching revival and the ongoing ministry of the Methodist church.) 

I very much appreciate that SOMEONE is attending to all this – someone cares and is making sure all the balls stay in the air. I also appreciate how God seems to sustain this huge dance, this enormous orchestra of moving parts, without strain or drain or resentment. It is as though He does it the way humans do “hobbies”. He does it because he LIKES it! He is good at it because He likes it. He is totally “into it” and “in the zone” and engaged because He likes it! All of our reality is His hobby. :D

Before I concluded my description of what God is “like” and what I like about Him, I included one other thing:

I thought about Richard Gordon, the pastor who spoke last night. Richard Gordon is from South Africa. A wild main of brown dreadlocks frame his bright face. Whenever I hear his name, Richard, I always instinctively add, "the Lion Hearted.” He is bold and powerful and always seems to shine with both courage and joy, an explosive combination. 

Last night he shared his testimony. Apparently, before he became the person he is now, he was extremely shy and academic, working on his masters degree in a program so difficult program only 2 out of 16 complete it. In the middle of this, he met a girl who demonstrated there was “more of God” Richard hadn't known was possible. This started him on a journey. Now he is a powerhouse, wonder working, awe inspiring, almost shockingly wholehearted lover of God. I could tell you some of the signs and wonders that follow in his wake, but that is not the point.

The point is: God + person = Something AMAZING.

Richard Gordon truly seems like a “new creation” from the person he was before launching into his intimate relationship with God. And I've seen the pattern over and over again. Person + God = Something incredible! I don't know how He does this, but He does.

Not everyone's transformation is equally dramatic. It seems that God offers an open invitation; some people respond and seek Him; and then among those, He chooses some. (Or at least, He responds in a variety of ways to those who seek Him – sort of like differing chemical reactions, or the varying results of mixing different colors of paint.) 

We can't dictate or manufacture the result of “God + Me = ___?____”. We can't “choose” ourselves or “mark” ourselves; God is the one who does that. All we can do is seek Him, keep our eyes on Him, make ourselves available, incline our ear, and respond to His touch. And then, down the road, we may look in the mirror and discover we have been transformed.

Amen.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Generosity


Another personal “theme” of my current spiritual season is GENEROSITY. Generosity, the natural, bold, joyful overflow that comes from confidence in having more than enough. So why not share liberally?

For example, the other day I saw that another waitress was getting better tables than I was. I was tempted to be jealous and begrudging; instead I decided to joyfully pray for her to be abundantly blessed in tips, even if that were to mean that I got the “poor tippers.” After all, I have divine sponsorship and all my needs are always met, so why not share some of the wealth? It turned out that, though a generally poor day for everyone, that coworker alone got a bumper crop of tips, enough to surprise her and make other coworkers shake their heads in wonder. I secretly rejoiced and determined to “sponsor” one coworker in prayer every time I work.

Also whenever tempted to be stingy or “fairness”-oriented, I am reminded that generosity is the imperative requirement for someone who has abundantly received (as I have.) My tuition, my car, and every piece of furniture in my bedroom were all given to me. More than $7,000 worth of value at the start of the school year alone! How could I possibly begrudge giving rides to other students??? (In my FREE-TO-ME car.)

At first I was happy to give rides if convenient, or if the other person “pitched in” for gas. Then I expanded this to, I'll give rides (consistently and freely) to the specific people I want to develop relationship with. Then I realized, even this is a kind of “exchange” (not a free gift) because I receive in return a relationship that I value. After this realization, I determined to freely and generously serve (drive) people I do NOT particularly want relationship with.

Freely I receive, freely I give!!

Note: I still very much appreciate the importance of boundaries. In fact, if ever I am serving/giving out obligation or pressure, it is no longer a gift of generosity (which is the whole point.) So I do not make any PROMISE to supply rides on demand. But I do set my intention to freely give as I have freely received. As Jesus said, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:18)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Secret Place

During class (BSSM) on Thursday, the speaker directed us to ask the Holy Spirit to highlight to each of us our personal "theme" of school so far. What should we be personally pursuing?
As I looked back over the past month since school started, I noticed the theme of rebuilding intimate connection with God in my private life (outside of school and church.) This is what I think I need to be pressing into / pursuing.

Here is what I mean when I say this has been a "theme" over the past month:

1. During a Sunday evening service a couple weeks ago, I felt convicted to “worship” (and foster an atmosphere of worship) in my home / room without the hype/assistance/distraction of other people/live music/structure etc. I felt the urgency of integrating sincere worship into my private life, but wasn't sure how to go about it.

2. During a different Sunday night service, I re “surrendered” to the Holy Spirit and asked God to teach me again how to walk with Him. The first step He revealed, (it seemed to me,) was to “keep my eyes on Him”, keep my attention on Him and not drift to focusing on other things, either fearful or pleasant.

3. This past Thursday Mark Brookes (one of the "Overseers" for BSSM First Year) taught on "The Secret Place" - private communion with God. He mentioned that BSSM hired a professional service to survey their alumni and discovered that the primary factor correlated with whether graduates thrive or crash is whether or not they have developed their "Secret place."

4. He went on to clarify that the goal is to be in continual awareness of / communion with the presence of God. But till we habitually live that way, we should intentionally practice (re)turning our affections towards Christ throughout the day. He also taught several methods for us to try out.

5. The other day Bill Johnson taught about worship and how thanksgiving/praise/worship are an OFFERING to minister to God, not a means by which we “get” something. Unlike baby birds crying to be fed, we should approach as servants seeking to bless the master. By extolling His qualities (praise) our attention is fixed on Him and we “see” Him. And the result of “seeing” Him, we will receive and start to transform into His likeness.

6. During a guided meditation, I asked God what the theme of the season has been for me so far and this “private intimacy” thing was highlighted. Then, as directed, I asked, “Why?” And the answer seemed to be, “Because that is what has been broken..." This is the missing piece that will restore the active circuit. Spiritual intimacy in my private life is an area of strength for me. Time to re-dig the well....

So. How to put this in practice?

My first step has been to start spending 5 minutes (by the clock) each morning making an “offering” of praise to God, inspired by Bill Johnson's teaching. For 5 minutes I say out loud everything I can think of relating to one of the qualities of God. It's only been three days so far, but the result consistently is that, as I think about the various evidences of that quality of God, I become more genuinely/actively/enthusiastically convinced of that attribute of God.

Thursday I extolled the Love of God. As I thought about it, I was impressed by how God's love is like a force of nature, sweeping across the land, overwhelming all opposition and filling all space. Then during school that day we sang a worship song “Like a tidal wave, crashing over me, rushing in to meet me here, your love is fierce." The song was getting at the same aspect of God's love.

Friday I extolled God's Might (not something I usually think about) and by the end of my five minutes I was impressed by how ridiculously “solvable” every imaginable problem is. God created (with a word) billions of galaxies. God designed a system of mind-blowing complexity. (And, presumably, knows how EVERYTHING works.) He also is an absolute GENIUS at redemption. He figured out how to “fix” the ultimate problem of sin - every other problem is child's play. Every attempt to squelch His will He reconfigured to result in even greater goodness. As has been said before, if every tiny human on this tiny planet praised Him continually for the full extent of our tiny history, it would still fall far short of His endless greatness.

Today I meditated on and praised His Constancy. I was impressed by how continually and steadily He is Himself (like the sun, continually radiating energy, with some level of “flares” of intensity at times.) I thought about how, even during Noah's flood, He is always faithfully committed to preserving, redeeming, and restoring the human race. Then I switched to thinking about my own life and how God has been absolutely constant in “meeting me where I am.” I super appreciate that....

Secondly, other than my 5 minutes of daily "worship", I am also seeking to ask the Holy Spirit questions while doing the assigned daily Bible readings. This is a challenging for me. For one thing, when I read the Bible I habitually ask sharply accusatory questions, a bit like a lawyer putting the text on trial. Secondly, it's all good asking questions, but “listening for answers” is another matter. For some reason I find it very intimidating.

Today I made my first attempt. I found myself getting upset reading Matthew 10. For one thing, it seemed like Matthew was blending multiple events/teachings together and presenting it as one event/teaching. This upset me because it shook my concept of "literal" Biblical reliability. Secondly, Jesus' teaching in this chapter is somewhat disturbing. (This is the chapter where He says, “Do not suppose that I came to bring peace on earth but a sword.”)

As I felt myself becoming grumpy and closed, I decided to ask the questions that Mark Brookes recommended: What does this mean about you, God? What does this mean about me? What do you want me to do with this?

To my surprise, as I glanced at the text again, I noticed how the things Jesus said revealed his capacity to anticipate and provide what His disciples were going to need (that day and for all of the coming history of the church.) In that one monologue to His disciples, Jesus warns, encourages, and affirms their value, telling them not to be afraid but to stand firm. He also introduces (to them) the concepts of “lose your life to find it” and the principle of life flowing from honor. I was impressed by Jesus perception and kindness and graceful provision.

So then I asked about me, and my eye fell on one verse: “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” 

I thought of my blog. :) My way of proclaiming that which is whispered in my heart.

So there you have it – my "secret place" proclaimed from rooftops.