Category: Prayer

Spiritually Open Borders. Is the Church Ready for the Work of Welcoming?

We sit in their living room on mismatched chairs and smile at one another trying to determine what we are all trying to say to one another. Their bright teeth shine beautiful out from their dark, warm African skin. They speak Swahili. We speak English. We laugh at what we cannot understand and hope that each of us will one day know one another.

IMG_2331They fled Democratic Republic of Congo sometime this last year and came to America only a month ago, thankfully with other families. Fear of fighting is what I understand. I ask the father in English and make guns with my fingers. “Did you leave because of war?” He doesn’t understand. “Did you leave because of fighting?” Guns pointing. He nods yes.

These refugees have run from what all refugees run from: fear of persecution, fear for their lives and their children’s lives, fear that all will be taken from them. They come here for shelter and safety.

However, in this case, they are Catholic. We share the same God. We speak the same spiritual language. We know the same Savior.

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If we didn’t share the same God, would that mean I didn’t want to know them? No, but in light of the knowledge that we are facing the ever-increasing fact that Muslims, by the thousands, are coming either as immigrants or refugees, we have some thinking to do.

This post isn’t about whether or not we should welcome the refugee, the lost, the wanderer. I dare not challenge my Lord’s directive. This post is more about these questions:

  • Is the church ready? 
    Is she ready for the months and months it takes to help a refugee family implant in our culture? Ready to help them shop, learn the language, go to school, ride the bus, find a job? Is she already partnering with the agencies that do this? Does she understand the undertaking? Is everyone ready for the long haul? Because it is a long haul.

It’s more than welcome banners and hugs at the airport.

  • Has she already done the work of engaging immigrants, refugees, the lost, the wanderer, the displaced, the lonely?
  • Is her compassion for the Syrians an extension of the compassion she has already shown to those here? In many cases, I’m sure it is.

But more than this, are we ready for the spiritual implications of spiritually open borders?

woman-812070_640Islam is not a religion that is the same as Christianity. Neither is Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Animism. They do not serve the same God, and in fact, serve a false god. This kind of false religion will bring with it strongholds and demonic powers that can, and will, influence us if we are not both intellectually and spiritually ready and equipped, in the Spirit and in the Word, to open our arms, homes, churches, and country to more and more false religions.

This is not to say we do not do such things as make friends with Muslims, or engage in our neighborhoods with Muslims. What we must understand is that while we find it heartwarming to be able to engage as a community, even move beyond acquaintances to friendships, there is an entire iceberg of cultural differences, an entire worldview, underneath our warm hellos and friendly dinners together.

Above the waterline of our deeply entrenched worldview we find the easiest cultural differences to overcome. They, and any other refugee or immigrant, will come see how we interact, what we eat, how we sound, what we smell like, what is considered rude, what is considered to be gratitude. On and on there are things that are considered to be “above the waterline.”

Below the waterline is a giant iceberg of differences. Values and beliefs that will not, and cannot, be compromised are buried deep in all of us. There are ingrained cultural habits that will not be moved nor changed. There are spiritual DNA strands unchangeable unless touched by the Holy Spirit. The worldview of the American Christian and the worldview of the Hindu, the Buddhist, the animist, the atheist, or the Muslims will clash and rip at one another under the waterline. What I value as deeply embedded beliefs about God, humanity, the heart and soul of a man, salvation, the afterlife, war, ancestors, and the future lies under the waterline.

As does theirs.

Are we even remotely ready, spiritually and prayerfully ready, for our icebergs to glide together in close proximity? Do we have the spiritual fortitude to pray against the evil attached to the false religions? Do we understand the gravity of the war we wage in the heavenlies when we so passionately want to welcome those who are fleeing to our country?

And welcome them we should.

Shrewdly, and in love. 

Jesus, when he sent out the disciples told them to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10.)

As I read the posts and the blogs about whether or not we welcome the refugee, I actually want to sit with everyone, look at the ones who are saying, “Mercy! Love! Welcome!” and say “YES!” And I want to sit with the ones saying, “Pause! Wait! Think! Prepare!” and say “YES!”.

It is yes to all.

Yes to love.
Yes to open arms.
Yes to helping, serving, housing and sheltering.
Yes to prepare, be patient, understand, study, pray…deeply pray.

It will take all the the Body of Christ to show Christ to the nations. It is His heart’s passion that all men come to the only name that will save them. It is is intention that the manifold wisdom of God be made known by and through His church. In our love for one another, they will see we are Christians. It is not our love for them that prove that we are Christians, it is our love for one another.

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We must stop the fighting, and come together and unite. Not because “they” are coming, but they are already here! There is no good purpose in fighting. Humility is the way. We must unite in love, hope, mercy, prayer, intelligence, resources, strength, and spiritual preparedness for what we are so quickly wanting to happen and so ready to open our hearts and lives to. We must work together, prepare together, and most importantly, pray together.

This is no game. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but “against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6)

As we welcome, we must also be prepared to fight in the heavenlies in prayer. Protect your home in prayer, not by locking your doors (unless you’re threatened). Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Be the mouthpiece of the Gospel. Be the light of the World. Be the enemy’s greatest nightmare. We are ready to be welcomers. It’s in us because Christ is in us. Let us prepare ourselves for the work.

“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all the believers everywhere.” Eph. 6

The Hebrew God I Choose

I’m an American.

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I am white.

I am a woman.

I am a Christian.

 

 

I am a product of Greek philosophy, but have chosen Hebrew theology.

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I no longer follow the way of my own desires. I have given up my American dreams.

This Hebrew God I have chosen to follow has a Way about Him that bumps and bullies my Greek philosophical ancestry in my way of doing life. My instinct is to run after things that make me happy, or make sense, or show I am successful and that I have made my way in the world. It crushes my need for individualism with a call that is inclusive and calls itself The Church.

Individual privileges are no longer the priority. There are others.

We call each other brothers and sisters.

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My ancient Greek influences make me want to know the why of everything and wants to know the next step, the next goal, what the next season will hold. My Hebrew God smiles and reminds me that I won’t know every reason, but I will know His Name. He tells me that the next step is just illuminated by His Word and that in faith I take a step. He teaches me that there is a season for everything, and it’s not what I get out of it exactly, but how much glory He receives in my worship, honor and faith in Him.

Makes Him sound selfish, doesn’t it?

Rubs against our “God loves me for me” mantra.

There is no higher god or person above this Ancient One who gets any glory or honor, there is only He. From the Beginning to the End, His greatest passion is His own Glory. His own Name.

His fame.

His Happiness, if you will.

sunI, in my Greek, individualistic, self-absorbed knowledge of how humans should feel find this unnerving, but… I have chosen to follow this God.

I don’t get to say who gets the glory.

I chose to say, “I follow this God and His Word and His Son and His Holy Spirit.”

I don’t then get to say my dreams and happiness come first.

I am a Greek philosopher who has chosen to adhere to a Hebrew theology.

Which one will bow to which?

jerusalem-475110_640Is logic all bad? Of course not. My Hebrew God says in His son are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and that I can have depth of insight in Him. But He also says that He is a mystery, a consuming fire, one that has higher ways than me. Logic cannot touch.

Can’t I be myself? Indeed. Beautiful personality made in the image of my Creator…placed in the family, the faces, the sea of other humans who have turned their face and their posture to this Hebrew God.

We are One.

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And we have purpose.

My Greek instinct is to find my own purpose. My Hebrew God says, “I AM and there is no other.” I must know His purpose.

It is His glory. 

There is no other purpose.

How? How do I fulfill that purpose?

That glory freed the Hebrew slaves of Egypt with plague and promise.

That glory fell in the wilderness on the tabernacle with Moses and the Israelites. It consumed the sacrifices and they fell to their faces.

That same glory fell on the temple of Solomon. Consuming sacrifice and they were undone, falling to the pavement with their faces to the floor, worshipping.

How do I bring glory to Glory?

I don’t.

I can’t.

He brings it to Himself…through me, in me, because of me, in spite of me.

That same Glory falls on me. In me. Consuming me.

He is Holy Spirit.

This Hebrew God needs not me to serve Him, though I want to. He needs nothing from me, other than my faith, my devotion, my worship. My yielding to His Indwelling.

Then He calls us. He calls us to take this Glory to the Nations. There is no other thing. There is no other purpose. This Glory brings salvation and full redemption. It brings with it hope and wholeness. Worship and honor of this great and mighty Hebrew God brings satisfaction and rest.

matchstick-20237_640So, I do what I can to see that happen. I pray for people I love. I pray for darkness to be pushed out of the lives and nations of the enemy. I pray that others go and then are protected, and unified, and rested, and more.

It is not just them to take the Glory to the nations. It is those of Us who work in the marketplace. Those of Us who sit at desks and look across our offices to those we know do not know the Glory.

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It is Us who hold babies and raise small humans. It is also Us who work late nights and early mornings. It is Us who work in the schools and hospitals. We hold the hands of the aged. We bring new humans into the world. We cry with the world. We gasp at the horror. We can be extremely lovely. We drink our coffee and sigh as we ponder our lives. We smile at strangers. We hold the unlovable. We give water. We give food. We visit the sick. We talk to those in prison. We drive our cars and pass you on the street.

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We are of The Way

Carriers of The Light

Revealers of The Glory.

We are frail. We are bold. We are united.

We are the nations going to the nations to reveal the great and holy Glory of this great and mighty Hebrew God. It is no small task. It cannot be all individualistic without a global unity. It cannot be a faceless mass of people either. We are called a Body for a reason. Individual parts working together to bring maximum health to ourselves and beauty to our Head, Jesus Christ.

To Him be the Glory through the ones who have said Yes.

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I Wanted Us to Suffer a Little, Then I Saw a Tree and Changed My Mind.

IMG_7399Just above me is a giant tree in our backyard. Growing up in Oklahoma the giant trees were few and far between, and were put on display at Christmas and people drove from miles around to take a look. Here, in Tennessee the trees are quite different. The rise so tall that you hurt your neck looking up for too long. They cover the landscape like a blanket and provide shelter and shade for everything below them.

Trunks so large it takes arms and arms to reach around.

treehugThey sway in the breeze and climb the hills together to display their gold and orange change every fall.

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They are wonderous.

There is a verse in Revelation that has been tucked in my heart for over a decade

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

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I sit under that tree in my backyard many times a week. I look up at it and that verse runs through my mind as I stare at the thousands of leaves whispering over my head. “How are the leaves the healing of the nations?” I don’t know, but I do know scripture says it. I also know that is Psalm 1 a righteous man is compared to a tree by living water. And although Jesus said he is the root of the vine, why not be the root of the trees? Would that not be a stretch to think that the leaves are….us? 

Are we the leaves that are to be the healing of the nations?

He is healer, no doubt, but we are the messengers, the ambassadors, the one reliant on the root of the vine, where we are admonished to be “root and established in love.” Rooted. Roots that go down into someone who provides all we need for life. Roots so deep that when they are threatened, they cannot be uprooted, even when storms shake and whip the tops.

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What if when we are rooted and established in love, even though he slay us, we never stop trusting him? What if our roots were the only thing that kept us from dying in the worst of times? What if our roots in Christ, though we are pruned and changed, we grew stronger and more powerful as a whole collective?

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I wanted, for awhile, to be really upset with the Church, not a particular church (notice the capital “C”) but at the church of America. I was even thinking “Bring on persecution! It will only cause us to grow! We deserve a little tough times. We don’t know what persecution is! Let the storms come and cut us down a bit. Let the lightning strike and strip us of our pride!”

Angry

Bitter

Arrogant

Then I realized that the church of Acts, when persecuted was scattered. Scattered like ants when their little ant piles are messed with. Scattered like roaches when the lights come on. They, our first brothers and sisters, were forced out of homes and displaced by persecution. Much like what is happening even now to our brothers and sisters.

Then I looked at the tree and wondered, “So, what happened between the times of persecution?” What happened as they rebuilt their lives and started again? What did they do?”

 

They grew.

treepathShe discipled. She spread the gospel. She took care of her own. She fed the poor and took care of the sick. She supplied food and money to missionaries and housed them when they returned. She prayed for each other and encouraged them in Christ. She met for communion and eating, and I’m sure, laughter and tears.

She healed nations.

Now, we sit in a nation, one that is sick and dying, and I’ve wanted the Church of America to feel the pain our brothers and sisters around the world are experiencing, but have realized what an awful thing that is. I only meant it like how we talk to our kids “When I was your age!” as though our experiences might make them different. I wanted the experiences of others who were persecuted to guilt the American church into feeling bad about herself, and maybe even wanted us to “suffer” a little more and grow up.

There might be some truth in that. We have a tendency to be spoiled. Our freedom has made us comfortable and we can easily miss the suffering around the world, but that’s not true for all of us.

Obviously

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We have more than a great opportunity here. We have a great gift, obligation, responsibilty as the Church to be the turning tide of our Nation, and to be the ones who fund other other nations to take care of the displaced, the refugee, the poor, the homeless, the persecuted. We, as millions of believers in Jesus, have the time, resources, technology, and freedom to be those healing leaves, not only to the world, but to ourselves, to our neighbors, to our politicians, to our enemies.

No more do I say, “Bring on the persecution and watch us scatter!” No, I say,

Bring on the Holy Spirit and watch us explode!

I pray the prayer of the founding Church,

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant, Jesus.”

And I pray, that through our unity, the same thing will happen among us:

“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

We still live in a free country. We still have the freedom to pray and gather and stand up in boldness. Not in anger, not out of guilt, but in a great unity of believers, full of love and hope and faith, so that we will be filled with the Spirit to expand the kingdom. While we are in this freedom, let us not squander it. I pray we take advantage of it.

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And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Rev. 22

 

If You’re Going To Ask, Be Ready To Encourage

IMG_7231I popped in on a friend via text to ask her how she was doing after I saw an Instagram that sorta-kinda let us know she wasn’t great.

“How can I pray for you? Saw your Instagram.”

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Then she told me what was really going on. Nothing tragic. Nothing that would make me want to run over and hold her while she wept on her couch. But just enough that she needed some straight up encouragement.

Here’s the deal. You have truth. I have truth. There are days when you feel crappy and days when I feel crappy. I happened to catch her on a day where she was weak and I was strong. So I let her have it. Here’s what I sent her after she said she was discouraged.

I so get it. And you know the truth. Shut that enemy up and activate your faith. Rise up in the power given to you in faith and let the Spirit flow again to speak His truth. To think you have exhausted His testimony is a lie. You overcome the enemy by the blood of the lamb and your testimony. Stand firm. His fame and his name is your weapon and inspiration.

Let’s be honest, we don’t always talk to each other like that, but we should. We have been given very powerful truths and realities that we need to put in front of each other on a regular basis. It’s not easy being human and no one said faith was easy either. In fact, quite the opposite.

The Bible teaches that our faith will be tested and refined like gold in fire. #noteasy
It teaches that we are to stand firm over and over. Implying #noteasy
Jesus straight up said we will have trouble. #noteasy

This life of those who say they follow God is not easy. It’s not roses and rainbows. It’s tough and can wear us out and can make us fear and tremble and wonder, “What the heck am I doing?!”

This is where we come in for each other.

Others have done it for me. I’ll get texts with prayers, or something encouraging in an email.

I do it for others.

Don’t ever hold back from encouraging someone with the Word and Truth of God. Don’t just give people happy thoughts and atta-boy’s, use the Truth. (and if you don’t know the truth, then get your Bible out and learn it.)

In the end, she was blessed, and it really did encourage her and give her a spiritual boost.
I was blessed.
She was encouraged and my own faith was charged up!

That was the work and word of the truth and of the Spirit. 

So, don’t be afraid to encourage. When someone you trust and love asks you, “How are you?” be honest if you can. If you ask someone and they tell you, take a moment to pray and then let the Spirit minister to them through you. You might be the very thing they need at that moment. Use the Word of God valiantly and boldly. It is powerful, it is effective, it is truth.

How can you encourage someone today?

Why We Don’t Pray

209I’ve sat silent before God, unable or unwilling to talk. He’s been in my heart’s peripheral, while being on my blog’s front page, my next tweet, my sunset Instagram.

I lift my hands before him in church, and then find myself looking around to see if anyone else has their hands up. Losers with your hands in your pocket! Don’t you know who we are singing to! *fixes shirt* Oh! I’m worshipping. La-tee-da! She’s pretty. I’m hungry. *guilt for the judgment filled loser thought*

I sit to pray and seek God for my life and others. *we need milk and creamer and some brussel sprouts* Thoughts fly through my head. *oh my word, it’s dirty under that couch!* Humanity wins over the spirit. The pull on my mind to pay attention and “fix my eyes on Jesus” can be annoying. I can be very mean to myself about how easy it is for me to bear the weight of the Beheadings in my chest, and in my next thought wonder how on earth I’m going to ever find the right pair of jeans!

We are tragic. We are messy. We are beautiful. We are full of hope. We are tired. We are wired. We are longing for things to be drastically different, and then are swallowed up in the joy that things can be calm and clean and the same.

We want to eat ourselves silly on books and blogs that feed a peaceful and carefree, full-of-Jesus, all-about-me life.

We want it easy. We so desperately wish things were easy! I know I do. I want the white-walled life with the right lighting and soft hues. I want the life that polishes Jesus and makes him my pillow, my comfort, my peace. We desire to have a kind-hearted, blissfully balanced life full of complementary colors coupled with the right chairs and blankets.

God, I want that.

But, it doesn’t fit what I see is the call to follow Christ in the Word. That? That’s messy. That’s challenging and wild and crazy and really irritating because it goes so much against what I want. And the mess in my heart is just messier. How desperate I am to surrender to him. Just give up because the more I say I am a Christ follower, the more I realize there is no pretty way to do it. And I want to do things his way more than I want the cushy life that begs for me to run after it. I really do want to follow him.

 

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There is indeed a time to center and let the Holy Spirit fill the space in my life that is nothing but all the space in me. There is no God-sized hole in my heart because God isn’t in the business of filling holes. He is in the business of fulfilling his glory in our lives. He wants to dominate. Take over the life he died for. Have complete control. Fill the fullest measure.

There are no God-sized holes. How trite. How dare we use such pathetic descriptions of what we are without God.

If we have any holes in us that need to be filled by God it should be the unending black hole of desperation for his presence. Moses did not even want to go the promised land without God. The promised land! All that was promised, all the dreams, all the hopes, all the stuff that God told him would be his was nothing if God was not there.

Can I say the same thing? If I looked just at tomorrow, just tomorrow, never mind any dream I may have, never mind any goal I might have prepared, would I say, “I cannot go to tomorrow if You are not with me.”

What does that say about my today? What does that say about what and how I pray? What does that say about my intimacy with Jesus? The answer to that question leads us to look at how personal and seriously we take this intimate, messy-life thing we call prayer.

Taking a few moments to take inventory on the reasons I haven’t prayed in the past (or not so distant yesterday), I came up with a short list.

 

Maybe we don’t pray because…

 

we do not think that He is everything we need, not only for us, but for the world. Is he really everything you need? Or do you “got this”? Could you remove God from all facets of your life and it look the same?

we are swimming in unbelief. We believe that our tomorrows rest on our shoulders. We believe that our talent, our charisma, our connections, our feeds, our blogs, our next thing, can be done in our power, our way. We believe he won’t come through, or that we couple our little strengths with his, like he is a spotter as we lift the weights of ministry. We believe certain things about God and other things about God for other people, but have a heck of a time believing things that he says in his Word about us.

we have been pacified and babied in our walks with Jesus. We have fed each other spoonfuls of grace and love and forgotten to drop on our knees, grab the arm of the person next to us, pull them down and spend our strength in prayer before a holy and awesome God. We’ve forgotten to chew on the sinew of maturity and be grown up in Christ.

we do not see needs beyond our own teeth. And those needs get tiresome and boring and we get sick of hearing ourselves ask for the same thing over and over and then when “it” doesn’t happen, we are pissed and he is a lousy provider.

we forget that we are filled with the Spirit, the same Spirit that hovered over the waters at creation. The same one that dropped life-fire on the men in Acts. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. The same Spirit that is sealed up in us and has the power to stop your breath just after you take the next one. We do not pray because we forget…and we grossly underestimate.

we are blinded by lights and shows of greatness. Great people writing great things and tweeting great stuff. We watch and like and retweet and laugh and applaude and then move on to the next thing like this blog post.

We do not pray because we give time to what really matters to us. Think about what you give your time to. What fills the ticking minutes of your day? I know what fills mine and, wow, I need to put that stupid phone down.

we do not know the Word of God. You cannot pray to a God you do not know and cannot pray for what he wants if you have no idea what his agenda is or what he has even asked you to pray.

we are ignorant. Ignorant because we go day to day without engaging in the tough news of life and putting that up against God’s Word. Ignorant because we do not practice prayer and learn more and more and more.

 

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These judgements are harsh, but I can only say them because I have lived every one of those. They are life-drainers. The only way we will every have a breakthrough in how and what we pray is when we have a breakdown of ourselves and a soul willing to be interrupted and overrun by the great God we say we serve.

We greatly, and I mean, greatly underestimate the power of prayer in our lives, and even more so in the outcomes of what can happen in the world. We dismiss it as something other people do and aren’t even sure about how to do it. But, we must pray. We must change the list of reasons we don’t pray and write a list of reasons that we do pray.

 

So…

We pray because

He is everything we need. Everything. 

we believe. We believe there is nothing in us, or given to us by him, that we can do without him. We believe that he is the only way we can do anything he has called us to. We believe and take him at his Word at every turn of the page and then we bow in prayer in belief that the Holy Spirit is making those things possible in our lives and in the world.

we realize we must grow in maturity and move beyond being babied and coddled and rise up in the power and strength afforded to us.

we see a world in need of Jesus and we have the power to give him to them. We can go and send people into the world, both down the street and into the places where the Gospel has never been heard. We can do that!

we have been given the power and the freedom to do so. Our enemies can take everything from us, but they cannot take the Spirit in us or our freedom to pray. Don’t squander that freedom now, use it like it could be threatened tomorrow.

we are filled with the mighty and awesome and powerful prayer-instilling and prayer-answering Holy Spirit who causes us to fight in the Spirit and know the Word of God so that we can stand against the enemy, send the forces of the Gospel into the darkness, and rise up in strength against persecution and hardship.

we forcefully humble ourselves to be caught up in the greatness of Jesus and not each other.

we realize the importance of it and we give our time and effort to it knowing that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

we have ingested and digested the Word of God so deeply that we cannot not pray because of the truth that dwells in us. The Word of God shows us the greatness of God and we will make our mark in prayer because prayer is where courage is unleashed.

we are incredibly smart and ingenious men and women of God who will not let being ignorant of God’s Word stop us. We learn, we read, we understand, we go after knowledge of Christ in each other and in prayer.

We pray because we know the need is great and our hearts should be so full of fire for the name of God to be displayed that we can do nothing without prayer. We pray because we are so for certain that there is no greater need than the need to pray.

 

So, what do you do?

Find out what to pray.
Learn how to pray. (You’re you. It’s between you and him)
Join with others to pray.
Pray at church.
Pray at home.
Be aware and pray for others.

This list is almost endless. But, if we do not pray, I fear we cut of the very power afforded to us by the Holy Spirit. Will you join me in the great and mysterious wonder of humble and deliberate, life and world altering prayer?

At the end of the age, you’ll be glad you did.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18

Be the Friend You Want to Have

IMG_4788I was floating along in the pool on a floatie. She was standing in the shallow end. We were lapping up the sun and enjoying our time together. She dropped her ponytail holder just after she had pulled it out to dip under and let the cool water run through her hair.

It sank to the bottom. Three feet down.

She went after it.

Now, at this point, you’d think any grown adult would be able to simply take a small nose dive under the water, retrieve the ponytail holder, pop back up and pick up where we were in the conversation.

That didn’t happen.

My darling friend of thirty-plus years had a bit of trouble. I laid on my mat watching in delight.

She dove under. Feet popped up. There was no small amount of splashing. She seemed to be gone for quite a bit of time. Her feet kept kicking up through the top of the water. She’s only three feet down. What is she doing down there? 

She came back up for a bit of air, hair in face, eyes closed. And went back down.

Now at this point, I’m already hysterical. I have no idea how I stayed on my mat.

She goes back under, oblivious to the fact that I’m in fits over what I’m seeing. My eyes are glued to the saga I am seeing before me. Feet cut back through the top of the water, flailing around like she was on the verge of kicking to the bottom of the ocean. Feet then disappear simultaneously as her head comes back through the top. Ponytail in hand. Rejoice! Glory! We celebrate. Well, she sorta does. My eyes are popped out of my head as she says, “Had a little trouble getting that.”

A LITTLE?

The spasms of laughter ensued. Spasms! Gut-wrenching, swimmer’s cramp, grasping for breath, equal to sit-ups kind of laughter.

She is a friend. A dear friend of whom I am not afraid to laugh at straight to her face. And she would do no less for me.

 

 

Same friend. Years later.

“Nat, I don’t know how much longer my mom is going to live,” she said.
“Want me to come home?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Let’s wait and see. I can’t believe this might be…” her voice cracked, “the last time I talk to her.”

We cried together, wondering if I should make the twelve hour trip home for a “maybe”. I called another girlfriend and we talked and weighed my options. We whispered our concern and spoke in low tones about our dear friend.

We have laughed until our sides split, and cried over things until we thought our hearts could bear no more. We’ve hurt each other’s feelings and made each other feel like we could conquer the world. We have studied the Word of God together and cracked not-so-clean jokes. We spoken Truth to each other and held each other accountable. This is friendship.

IMG_4816

Being a friend isn’t always about us. It’s not about who’s who and who knows who and who is on the Instagram with who (or is it whom? moving on).

It’s not waiting to see if you’re invited or tagged. It’s not waiting to see if they will text before you text them, or if they told you something they didn’t tell others so you will feel included.

Friendship is being the kind of person you want them to be to you.

 

 

 

You want friends who will prayer for you and with you? Then you pray for and with them.
You want friends who will check in on you and make sure you’re okay? Then you do the same for them. And if they don’t reciprocate, then maybe you need to find a different friend.
You want friends you can trust? Be trusting.
You want friends you can count on? Be someone they can count on.
You want friends who go after the things of God? Be someone who goes after the things of God.
You want friends who have your back? Have theirs.
You want them to care about the stuff in your life? Care about theirs.
You want them to babysit your kids? Babysit theirs.

This looks simple and sometimes it is. But friendship takes work. It takes being vulnerable and opening up. It takes going after it sometimes. One of the best ways to find strong friendships is to go through a Bible study together. Get some friends together and do a six week study. It’s amazing the new level you will have.

Wanna make it more amazing?

IMG_5089Pray together. Together, like on the floor together. Make it a priority.

Be that friend you want so that you will have the friends you want. They will be your biggest cheerleader, your greatest source of comfort, and your best laughs. Our God designed us for community to display His glory to the world. Even Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples by your love.” (paraphrase)

When we love one another, when we are friends through thick and thin, it speaks to His greatness. Don’t let insecurity, jealousy, and the “need” to be popular (yes, even 41 year olds can still deal with this) ruin your chances of being a great friend and having great friends.

They are worth the risk, the fight, the reaching out, the work, the joy, the pain.

Be the friend you want to have in your life, and you will be so enriched by who God places in your journey. These are the friends I have. I pray you have the same.

Spend Yourself in Prayer

DSC_0353Crucified upside down.
Staked.
Burned alive.
Torn apart by lions.
Skinned alive.
Shot.
Beheaded.
Tortured.

No one wants to read that. No one wants to actually believe people are capable of things we hear, have studied in history, in the Bible, and now have seen on our screens.

I’m with you. I’d rather run, hide, pretend it isn’t real and believe that I’m so ill equipped to handle it that I just have to turn away. I don’t want to turn away, but I must. I can’t handle it. I’m way too weak, and honestly, too selfish to want to deal with this! But, I must. We must.

 

We can’t turn away.

 

I sat on my shower floor, exposed and as naked as you can be before the Lord. I prayed for them, for those who are facing those evil eyes, staring out over masks, and those hands holding knives and torches, guns and video cameras. I prayed for the ones that have no voice. I prayed for the ones that we have no idea where they are or what country they are in, but they are threatened, they are being targeted. I prayed for the ones not covered by media, nameless, faceless.

I begged God to send the enemy they face into spasms of spiritual fits because the name of Jesus is being spoken around them. That they would become like King Nebuchadnezzar of old, wild and untamed, lost and foraging in the ground until they recognize the One and Only True God. I prayed that He would cause them visions and dreams so unrelenting that they would beg Him to stop, and they would then know His love. His forgiveness.

 

“Pray for your enemies.” – Jesus

 

 

My head dropped lower and the water poured over my head. I whispered prayers, asking Jesus to tell my brothers and sisters, “We are here. We see you. We love you. We pray that your words would be of Christ. That your words would irritate the enemy, though they slay you. That they only know of Jesus and Who He is because you dared speak. We pray for your strength and boldness. We pray for your unwavering faith and dedication in the face of things we cannot not begin to understand.”

I wished I could whisper prayers in their language, but I was satisfied with knowing He can.

They are facing death. They are facing things we can only imagine and only see on our screens while we sit in our chairs and watch the snow fall. We cannot grasp it.

 

Do we dare pray for such things? If we were facing death as they, what would we be saying? What would we be praying? Pray that for them.

 

Prayer.

You doubt it?
You don’t understand it?
You wonder if it is effective?

Do not think that because you do not understand all of it that it is unproductive and He isn’t listening.

He is.

He wants us to pray. Repent. Drop our ideas of success. Let go of the need to be popular. Go faceless and nameless for the Great Name of Jesus. Blend in to the unity of believers and as one Bride, kneel and pray for the infectious name of Jesus to crawl into the hearts of those who hate and kill.

Ignore platforms and stop counting numbers.
Kneel. Weep. Spend your energy, your wonderful, Spirit-filled powerful energy on asking God to SEND, to GO, to GIVE, to RELIEVE, to IGNITE, to CRACK and PIERCE the darkness!

Spend yourself on behalf of others!

Spend it in prayer. In money. In social media. In whatever way you can. Wear yourself out.

Spend yourself because:

“Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen; to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?…If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourself in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

Isa. 58

 

Do not think for one minute that your fasting, your prayers, your agony for others is not doing something. These promises mentioned in Isaiah of satisfaction, strength, water, light in the darkness, these come when we spend ourselves on others. These aren’t promises because we have prayed more, or thought more, or dreamed more… these come with pouring ourselves out more and more and more for

 

others.

 

Pray. Get some friends together with an agenda. Get together and kneel and pray, even if you don’t know how to pray…learn. Learn how to pray what God wants you to pray. Stop being afraid that you don’t understand or that you’re not sure. Fight for knowledge of the mysteries of heaven and spend yourself doing it. Loose what is in heaven to earth! Fight for our brothers and sisters in the posture of exhausting prayer. Loose their chains in ways we will never comprehend this side of eternity.

 

For in the end, what will matter most? In the end when the end of days come and we are watching Him in all His glory, will you smile because you…YOU spent your days on behalf of others, interceding in prayer for the lost, broken, persecuted, forgotten, and yes, even your enemy. You tired yourself fighting for them, for Him.

Will you spend your strength, your might, your time, your naked shower time to pray?
Will you let God agitate you and make you uncomfortable?
Will you let him bother you enough that things become a little silly and you worry less?

Talk to Him.
Ask Him to make you a pray-er if you are not. Find out what He says about prayer and then…

 

pray.

Join 21martyrs.com to pray Sunday. Visit the website and join the Church in this.

Why I Watched Him Die

Squaready20150206181548It popped up in my Twitter feed. I had heard about it all week and even read just a bit on the situation, but this link, this click, took me to the video.

I clicked on the play triangle. 22 some odd minutes appeared at the top. 22? Twenty-two minutes of this?

I sat on my piano bench and turned down the volume. I didn’t want to hear it.

I grabbed the little dot with my left index finger and moved the time line down to around 5 min. My heart rate increased. My stomach began to fill with anxiety. I knew what was coming. I let the seconds tick on.

The cage. One man standing in it in an orange uniform. Some distance away, another man, outside the cage stood facing him holding a torch.

Dear God, no. This can’t be real. It’s a reenactment. Surely, this clean, edited version complete with transitions and HD video capability isn’t the real thing.

I wanted that to be the case.

4 min.

The man outside the cage lit the torch and stooped over to light the wet line on the ground. It ignited and it sprinted to the man in the cage, covering him in seconds. His initial reaction was pathetic, like a child. Then, he put his hands over his eyes and left them there as the fire overwhelmed him.

The next moments were the ones I wanted to scream, vomit, beat someone to death because of what I was seeing.

Horrific.
Terrifying.
Evil and sadistic.

Thank God I had my volume down.

Why did I keep watching? I hit pause and stared out the window. My kids were running by me and someone was watching cartoons.

Play.

God!

He fell on his knees. His face. Oh Jesus. He fell over. A bulldozer came and poured concrete on the cage, putting out the fire and putting out the terror.

The screen stopped. It was over.

I rallied myself and told my family, “Hey. I’m going to take a walk! Be riiiiight back.”

That video is like porn. It will never, ever leave my conscious. It will forever be an image in my mind. A running video that will for sure pop in at the most unexpected times of life and at the least appreciated moments. I will hate it forever.

But, unlike the smut I’ve seen in my life, I don’t want it to go away. Sounds awful, right? But here’s why:

That image I now have in my mind is nothing new in this world. What happened to that young man is not the new thing our enemy is doing. They’ve always been doing it. What I witnessed, and nearly couldn’t stomach, is not something we should turn our eyes from. This is our enemy. And this is what they do, what he does. What these men did is our spiritual enemy’s agenda made manifest in their lives. What we witnessed is what our enemy would do to every one of us if he had the chance.

So, when the video was over, I got my shoes on, hit the pavement, and began blasting the heavens with prayer.

This image should push us to our knees. This image, this video, is one of the representations of not only a real enemy to our country, to our beliefs, but a spiritual enemy to all who call Christ King. An image like that will cause you to suck in air, bug out your eyes, and tempt you to cover your ears and scream, “NO! I will not see it!”

And I understand.

But, listen to me, that kind of torture, destruction, agony and evil is who we are up against. You think ISIS is bad? You think those guys have anything on our spiritual enemy?

We need to think again.

And we, the Church, need to wake up and get to battle. 

I prayed, not only for that young man’s family, (Dear God! Be close), but I also prayed that ISIS, and the men and women like them, would feel the wrath of God on behalf of His beloved. I want that. My flesh, my defense for mankind wants them to be wiped out.

But…. my prayer changed because I know a God who made a deadly decision to send His son in this world for crazy losers like that (like me). I do not want any man or woman to go to hell. I don’t wish the pain of our spiritual enemy on anyone, not even those men. I want more than anything for that man, holding the torch, the one who filmed it, the guys standing around, to know and face the one true God, repent in fear and trembling, and be made new in Jesus.

Impossible for us.

Not impossible for God.

I began to pray that God would send irritating and beautiful visions and dreams that would send those members (and the others like them) to a place of wild tantrums because they can’t get them out of their minds. I asked Him to send them visions of Jesus, much like what happened to Paul on the road to Damascus. I asked that He would do the impossible! And then I asked that He would provide a way for those Believers, who I know are there, to come face to face with those who have had the visions and dreams and explain to them what they saw and show them the One and Only True God.

A video like that, with all it’s horror, with all it’s disgusting violent content, did not make me shy away in fear, but it made me rise up in prayer! I can’t go to Iraq and try to reach ISIS with the Gospel. But I, a small, white Gentile in America, can use the power of prayer to ask for the impossible and the miraculous! Those men can’t stop me praying and calling out to my God for His wild love to bug the literal hell out of them! They can’t keep us quiet! They can’t stop us from crying out to God for Him to break the darkness and shatter the enemy!

While I am here, I will use the freedoms I have and spend my spirit on behalf of others. We are called to be the light of the world, to go and make disciples, to pray for our enemies, to listen to the Spirit, to know God’s will, and to fight.

If you can’t stomach the video, I understand. But don’t let something that you can’t handle deter you from facing the realities of this world.

Pray.
Get angry.
Use that anger to become a fighting force of God in Spirit and in truth.

Because…

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Eph. 6

God Talking

photo-3How many times have you sorta looked around after “hearing” something that might be from God and mumbled, chin down, in your chest, “Uhh, was that You or me?” Raise your hand. Me too.

But, you see, I’ve come to the place when I know He is talking to me. I mean, I’ve come to a place (though His teaching and my humility) that I can discern when He is speaking, probably about 88.7% of the time. I’m not bragging, I’m just telling you where I have come with Christ.

If I tell people that I hear God, I usually get a few responses:

“He doesn’t do that with me.”
“How do you knooooowww it’s Him?”

Or I don’t get a response, but more of a look. A look like, “Wait. You hear Him?” or, more of an inquisitive look like someone is trying to read more on my face than what is coming out of my mouth. Sometimes I get the “Yeah, right.” look. I don’t like those people so I give them the stink eye back.

Intimacy.
Hearing God.
Knowing His voice and His will for us.

How did I get here? Funny you should ask.

Time. Years. Months. Days. Hours. Minutes. Days. Days. Days. I’m not saying it takes years to hear the Father. I’m saying it takes building a relationship and knowing the Word of God. That takes time.

Study. I not only studied the Bible, but I read books on prayer and, more importantly, the Holy Spirit. A good one to read is by Andrew Murray, The Indwelling Spirit. If you know me, you’re not surprised that I mention him…again.

Quiet. It takes a settling of the mind. A turning in to the belief that you have the Holy Spirit of God in you. In that quietness, you will pave the way to knowing when He is speaking to you and when you are having a conversation with yourself. (On that note. Sometimes, a rational conversation with what seems to be yourself, is probably the Holy Spirit. I’ll often ask myself, “Could I have thought of that or ministered to myself in that way?” Usually, when the answer if no, then the Holy Spirit is speaking.)(Sometimes talking to yourself is just that. And that’s cool. I do that all the time. “Where are my keys?” I ask. “I don’t know,” I say. “Dang,” we say together.)

Faith. These things are in faith. Faith. F A I T H. Not feeling. Not even understanding, nor knowledge. Faith. Something I learned was that faith didn’t always equal a feeling that went along with it; nor did a feeling mean I was full of faith. Faith is a “yes” to what God says regardless of how we feel about it, or how we feel period. Yes, there are emotions, thank God, and yes, the Spirit of God produces emotions in us, but He resides in our spirit, in the deep, unseen spiritual places where emotion is only a by-product, not a litmus test. He lives and dwells in the mystery, so waiting for your emotions to prove that is not faith. I had to learn to trust that He was doing His work, and then I could trust that I would have those things promised.

Are you willing to take God at His word when He says:
You have the mind of Christ? (1 Cor. 2:16)
Or, that you can know His will? (Rom 12:2)
Or that you can walk in step with the Spirit? (Gal. 5:25)
Or that the Spirit of Christ dwells in you reminding you of all Christ taught? (John 14:26)
Or that He is the Counselor, counseling you in wisdom and truth? (John 14:26, John 16:13)
Or that you have Him because you believed, not because you obey the law? (Gal. 3:5)
Or that you can live by the Spirit and not be full of sin? (Gal. 5:16).
Or that you have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know God better? (Eph.1:17).

 

These four things cultivated a heart, mind and spirit in me that can hear and receive Word from God. I will say this, my primary knowledge of God’s will and His heart and what His requirements are of me and the Church come from His Word. The Holy Spirit cannot do His work within our lack of knowledge of the Word of God. Nor will the Word of God be able to do the penetrating work of change and power in us without the Holy Spirit.

I would challenge you to explore these four things for yourself. Add journaling in there, for sure.

Through this, you will find that you are less worried about your future, more comfortable in your own skin, sure of your purpose, and happy in your relationship with God.

The 5 Things It Took To Overcome Anxiety

IMG_2995Let’s begin by saying this is the way it happened for me. This is a not a step-by-step-do-this-and-it-will-work because we are all different when it comes to anxiety. Each of us have different triggers. None of us “do” anxiety the same way. What trips my trigger might be a no-big to you. What gets you all in a fuss might make me roll my eyes. So, that being said, this is how I overcame anxiety.

First of all, anxiety and all it’s facets, all it’s attachments, all the things that can go along with it basically suck. We all know, (well, we all can Google pretty quickly to find out) that there are millions of us on anxiety meds. There are millions of us who need counseling. There are millions of us who might not be on meds but self-medicate. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out we are in deep. We are in a deep hole of anxiety and worry and depression…and that includes us, Christ followers.

I don’t have the room here to write a ba-billion things about anxiety and there are plenty of experts out there who love Jesus and can teach you more. I would, first of all, send you to the Word of God and then Caroline Leaf. Just read her stuff and watch her videos. Twice.

Now, back to me.

I never had anxiety until I uprooted and moved from Oklahoma to Nashville. It was coupled with depression (which actually came first….maybe), and some hypochondriac issues (which just held hands with the other two). So, anxiety, depression and being scared that I had a tumor in my elbow or back of the knee every other week made for a mess of me. And it lasted for well over a year.

It was awful. It wasn’t constant, but when it hit, it was overwhelming, irrational, and breathtaking.

We have been in Nashville a little over three years now, and I can finally say I have been well for quite some time. While I do not want to go through my personal anxiety details, I do want to go through the things I did, and God did, to get me well. I would highly suggest doing all of these and what ever else the Lord leads you to do.

1. I was always honest with God. Even though I put my journal away for a season because it just didn’t fit who I was anymore, I didn’t run from Him, or blame Him. I was always honest with Him. I never felt like I couldn’t tell Him exactly the way I felt and what I was going through…even when I couldn’t hear Him, I still knew His promise was true; He was in me and that was what I knew regardless of how I felt. Notice, I don’t talk about my “prayer life”. That kind of language just made me mad. My season of darkness and anxiety drug that church stuff through the mud. We talked. I cried. He listened. He spoke. It wasn’t a prayer life. It was prayer triage.  And that was the best way to have it.

2. I personally did not go on medication. I found a NP who worked with me with food, supplements and exercise. I bought what she said, I ate what she said, and I made sure I got exercise. Now, saying that, I did find that I drank more wine during that time. Sometimes too much, so that’s the whole “self-medication” I was talking about. For me, prescriptions weren’t an option. Food and supplements and sunshine are vital to your mental health. I read this book, The UltraMind Solution, and it was awesome. (ps. do not go off or on meds without your Doctor. Don’t do dumb stuff like that, m’kay?)

3. I made sure I had people who knew what I was going through. Even though many didn’t understand, there were the select few who did. They knew what I was dealing with and why, and they were there for me. If you are struggling to get well, find people you can be honest with and talk to. If you don’t have close friends like that, get to a counselor.

4. It took a lot of surrendering to the work of the Holy Spirit to really understand that my anxiety came from a feeling of a lack of control. These were layers of discovery with Jesus. I had to learn that I had planned my whole life, and it wasn’t mine to plan. I had to give up what I thought my future would be like and remind myself that I said yes to a God who wanted my whole trust and my absolute faith. I find that we have a hard time juggling our “dreams” with abandoning our whole lives to Christ, but that’s a different blog post.

5. Pulling my eyes off my circumstances, my wants, even my dreams, led me back to living in God’s wants and dreams for Himself. If I say I am a Christ follower, a God follower, someone who has committed my life to the Creator of the Universe, that has agreed that my life is not my own, that I was bought with a price, then I must be about what He is about. I must live a life that He describes as one lived according to His word and His purposes. Anything less is all about me. Now, that is a LOT easier said than done, especially in our culture, and even in the church, were discovering my dream is a greater and loftier thing to do than for me to discover God and His dream. Jesus prayed in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” My whole life should be the same prayer. When we pray that prayer, it requires adjustment. Maybe not for all of us, but for a lot of us, it requires us looking at our life and deciding if we are all about making sure people know Him, the only true God.

You are needed desperately in the great call of God for the nations. That is domestic and foreign. Jesus’ prayer was a global, international, go-into-all-the-world kind of prayer. It wasn’t one for self-help and self-realization. His prayer is that we would know God, that they would know God.. and this for His glory.

And those of us who follow Him must be determined not to be ruled by anything but Him. That includes anxiety and/or depression.

Are you ready to be free?
Are you willing to put up the fight?
Are you willing to surrender, to yield in faith to the Holy Spirit, to gain freedom so you can get in the prayer with Jesus?

Please do. Don’t let anxiety and depression keep you down any longer. Don’t let mainstream America and mainstream medicine tell you you can’t. You can. God can. It might take awhile because God might need to break down some false beliefs you have about your anxiety and depression, but it can be done. (disclaimer: I realize there may be a few people who really do have genetic and chemical issues. I have an uncle who is bi-polar. There isn’t anything he can do. But, the vast majority of us that have dealt with this and are dealing with it, can be free and well. I’ve done it.)

Okay, that’s my thing. Visit Caroline Leaf. Read her books. Read Andrew Murray’s The Indwelling Spirit. Ingest the Word of God. Believe it in faith that the Holy Spirit is doing a work you cannot.

 
What would happen if we stopped freaking out about our futures and our dreams and lived lives that lived out that prayer Jesus prayed? 
How can doing these things change the way you view your anxiety and depression?
Which one can you do today and the next day to get out of what is sadly brought on by ourselves, rather than our genetics? 
Are you willing to ask yourself the hard questions it would take to begin living a life for God? 
What things do you need to change to not let anxiety and depression rule you any longer?

You can be free.
You can be well.

You can join in the great work of taking Christ to the nations. 

(ps again. I know I sound like I am against personal dreams. I’m not. I’m against believers having dreams and calling them from God when they do nothing for the growth of His kingdom and only bring benefit to themselves. And there ya go.)