Couture!

Praying with a friend today I prayed to lay down the labels and mantles put upon us by others and to just be yoked with Christ. Yokes were individually made for each oxen in the field, and made to be comfortable, not chafing, to allow for maximum usefulness in the work.

I just ended up praying “Lord, bring on the SPIRITUAL COUTURE, custom-made for each of us individually!” and we both just fell out laughing so hard!

Woo Hoo! Made to order Destiny!

He is beside me in the field of life; we are pulling together in the same direction, and the burden is easy – the yoke is light. Matt 11:28-30

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SPIRITUAL INFRARED

This has been a hard month with the kids being out of school hanging around the house and seeing more of the news than I’d like. First, the Casey Anthony trial dominated every moment and people were talking about how she may have killed her little toddler, put her in a garbage bag and left her body outside. The trial ensued.

Then, Jaycee Dugard came out with her book outlining the terrible things done to her over 18 years in the backyard of a predator. He had pulled over in his car as if to ask her for directions, and proceeded to introduce her to decades of a living hell.

This week came the story about a little nine-year old boy walking home from camp, getting lost and asking someone for help. This would end up being someone who would murder him, desecrating his little body.

You can see how over the course of this one summer month, we have talked more about evil than we normally do. We have also cried more for the heartbreak of others, and asked ‘The Why Question’ more than we normally do. You can also see how this much news about the bad things that can happen to children has a chilling effect upon them.

I once heard a pastor teach that this incessant talk about the terrible things that happen in the world is nothing but a praise-fest for Satan. Think about that. Aren’t we just literally ‘recounting the works of his hands’ when we talk too much about these evil crimes? Doesn’t it open our hearts up to the spirit of anxiety and fear? Do you notice how the works of the enemy can begin to loom larger in our minds than the power of the Living God? How, if we aren’t talking about the recession, we’re talking about murder? Sometimes it seems like there is precious little to praise in a world filled with such difficulty, heartbreak, and oppression.

Last year I had an interesting experience. A beautiful high school sophomore committed suicide in a public playground near us. This really dealt a crushing blow to our little community. As we struggled in our hearts and minds (and schools) to recover from such a tragedy, a nearby middle school boy in took his own life as well, hanging himself outside his home, discovered by a classmate on his way to school. We were then thrown into an entirely new phase, and the talk began about how these things can sometimes came in threes. The sense of dread was palpable.

The two schools were really struggling, kids milling about unable to go to class, the campuses becoming large grief counseling centers. Facebook pages were filled with R.I.P. messages to their late friends, questions about life and death, why things like this happen, and when will it all just stop? As I sat every day in the early morning darkness doing my Bible study devotions, praying and weeping over these events, the Lord showed me something really important. I felt like He very clearly said, “Why are you taking this sitting down? I gave you power over darkness by my death and resurrection. Why aren’t you using it?”

This hit me like a thunderbolt! Good question, Lord! We should not be like our neighbors who have nowhere to turn and nothing beyond a human understanding. We don’t have to sit idly by and be crushed by an unseen enemy who is literally looking for someone to devour. So, why do we? I slowly began to pick up the sword of the Spirit and wield it against this demonic enemy, asking my brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the spiritual atmosphere over our area literally changed within a day. I could see it and feel it. One day!

Instead of quitting when we saw breakthrough, we were emboldened by the Spirit of Righteousness. We increased our prayers, casting down the forces of evil in the name of Jesus, walking our neighborhood (appearing just to be walking the dog) taking back the land by the power of God. The kids and I went to both suicide sites, praying against the spirit of death and suicide, and anointing the area with oil. Even my somewhat embarrassed teenager seemed deeply moved by this: That we didn’t have to accept the things that were happening. We could do something with power and authority that would change the environment.

This was no exercise in ‘positive thinking.’ This was all-out warfare in the spiritual realms – and the kids were up for it. It was so encouraging to see them happily anointing entire areas with touches of oil (playground equipment, fences, trees, sidewalks) and saying things like, “We pray the blood of Jesus over this area,” “We declare this playground for God,” or “We cancel and destroy any plans of darkness here.” We talked at every meal about God being the Creator and Redeemer, not the Destroyer.

Some of us adults walked the school campuses praying for the kids enrolled there and every family they represented. We prayed for the teachers and the administrators, and indeed, for every person who stepped foot on that property for any reason at all. We anointed buildings, doorways, even fences with oil. And as we did these things, the peace of Christ came over our community and the suicides ended. We were merely the carriers.

You realize that when we said yes to the gift of salvation – we were saying yes to so much more than simply going to heaven when we die. We said yes to more than escaping the final judgment of man and living forever with Him. When we said yes to Jesus, we said yes to a spiritual life of unimaginable proportions through the power of the Holy Spirit. This was not a little, “You’re saved from eternal death. So, good luck with your actual life.” This was more than, “Come to me and I will give you rest for your soul.” We actually said yes to participating in the spiritual battle that rages all around us, and we were issued actual BATTLE GEAR.

In Ephesians, Paul wrote about putting on the full armor of God so we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. (Eph 6:11) We were given the sword of the spirit, the belt of truth, the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the feet of readiness, and the shield of faith, which also acts as a fire extinguisher. (Eph 6:16) There was another piece of equipment issued too, which is there in the text, but not in so many words. This would be our spiritual infrared night-vision goggles. Say, what?

You may have seen military warriors on TV wearing these as they go into night battle, or any time they move into a dark place. These goggles allow one to identify an enemy who believes he is invisible; and then to destroy his plans. This capacity was downloaded to every believer on the day s/he said yes by faith to Christ. No one may have trained us in the proper use of the equipment, but we got it, nonetheless.

My question becomes, Why do I continue to leave all my spiritual armor packed away in the closet like my scuba gear, dragging it out on a rare occasion when I have exhausted every other option? Why wouldn’t I think of the life I am living right here, right now, as being as much a battlefield as it is ‘beyond the wire’ in Baghdad? Whenever they go beyond the wire, they know for a fact that the enemy is looking to destroy. There’s no question about it; which is why they never go out unprepared.

We, too, are called to go out beyond the wire, out of the safety zone, and we have been amply equipped for the job.

This must be why a news-cycle like the last one bothers me so much. It is so easy for me to get so beaten down by life on this side of heaven that I can forget the massive armaments that lay at my disposal within a hearts’ reach! If I don’t put on the power of God, then my life and my thinking looks exactly like that of my atheist neighbors. I become a “practical atheist” – theologically believing – but practically, not so much. I can be completely out of gas, with nothing but platitudes; no joy and no juice. And then I wonder why the world often doesn’t want whatever it is we say we have in Christ.

We don’t have to stand for this any longer. We are equipped not only for ourselves and our own sweet families, but for others, for entire neighborhoods, for communities, for cities, for counties, for countries. For the nations. We are equipped to do battle in the heavenly realms and to change outcomes. We are told to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen (2 Cor.4:18). How can I do that without putting on the goggles that were issued to me on the day that I believed? I cannot. Without the goggles, I see in the flesh and not in the spirit. And it gets dark, very dark.

Of course, I need training on how to better use my equipment…how to avoid booby-traps and landmines. I need to learn better ways to wield the mighty sword and to stand firm against the enemy’s plans. I need to better develop the tender heart of a loving shepherd, while building up the muscles of a powerful warrior. I need to wear those spiritual goggles every single day in order to see with the eyes of God what is happening in our world; in order to keep my eyes on Him, and not on the evil that surrounds me. (Psalm 141:8)

I need to continue to Praise God even when the enemy seems to win a point or two. I need to declare God’s great goodness and really seek out things to thank Him for – even in the worst of circumstances. Nothing irritates the enemy like praise and worship. Annoy a demon today – praise the Lord on High! Of course there are times when I am too weak to do anything, and I need to call upon Christian friends to come alongside to sit me down and hold up my arms till the battle can be won. (Ex 17:12-13)

We are definitely in dark days. Don’t go out without your armor. Don’t be without your spiritual night-vision goggles. See through God’s eyes and ask Him where to go from here. Even while our hearts may break for those affected by evil, let us overflow with thankfulness and praise, with love and the joy of the Lord. (Col. 2:7) Let us not allow the media be the arbiter of our faith, but instead, let the Author and the Finisher complete his work in us. Huah!

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Faith as a Risky Business

There is a life beyond what I learned as a kid in a Christian home, and this life involves volitionally intentionally listening and then submitting to what God is saying in that moment, and this involves a tremendous amount of risk!!

Once in Trader Joe’s, the checker was complaining about a hurt shoulder which I promptly commiserated …with (just like any “nice” person would do). Out in the parking lot, God said, “GET BACK IN THERE RIGHT NOW AND PRAY FOR THAT GUY!” Boy, howdy! ‘Scuse me? So back in I went. Got back into line, this time with no basket, and when I got to the front, I said, “Sorry about before when you were telling me about your shoulder. Can I pray for you?”

He said, “Sure!”

“Can I come around here and touch you?”

“You can come around, but dont touch it. It hurts.”

So I stood behind him while everyone waited, my hand about 1 inch from his shoulder, and prayed for the healing of that shoulder.

Then, I left.

At my small group, I told everyone what had happened, and THEY began praying for him. Every time I went in there, I got into his line and prayed for him. Then, once, I smelled alcohol very early in the morning, and I “got” that he needed release from the spirit of addiction. So my prayers changed from the shoulder to the drinking.

A few months later he was gone and I never saw him. I said, “What happened to C. Where did he go?”

Oh, he went to rehab and everything changed for him. He is doing great!”

Oh, Coooool!!! THANKS GOD!

And God: “No – THANK YOU for listening to my still small voice, and for doing what I asked.”

How often are we praying for God to reveal Himself, to speak to us, to use us, to magnify Himself? And then when he tries to practice with whether or not we really mean it, we are too busy, too embarrassed, too “too” for what HE wants to do.

I think Jesus MODELED humanity rightly related to God. God says, we do. God urges, we go. God speaks, we listen. God says, “Put your hand on that guy so I can heal him,” and I say what? “I’m too busy”?

The power that raised Jesus up out of that tomb is being held captive in the bodies of unbelieving Christians who only pray for things that won’t make us look stupid. And as a result, we don’t see miracles every day of the week. Mercy is safe. Healing is risky. Compassion is safe. Deliverance is risky.

I’m developing an appetite for this risky business.

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The How of When

There is a rather large contingent in the Christian community who believe that the Rapture of the church is coming this month on May 21, 2011. My kids have been seeing the billboards about Judgment Day and are a little bit concerned about it.

This morning Jessica asked me, “If it comes mommy, what should I do?”

I am so happy to admit that I didn’t miss a beat and said,  “Just raise up your arms and say, ‘I love you Jesus.’  Don’t be afraid, honey.  Just chill out and I will meet you in heaven, okay?”  This made a lot of sense to her.

Then Zachary, who had been eavesdropping, looked at me quizzically. The banner ad above his head read, “Hey – I want to be in on that!”  But what came out of his mouth was, “Oh, mom!”  I am praying that the banner ad drops down into his heart so that he can be more certain of his destiny.

I’m very glad that Jessica asked the question so that she can be prepared, not just for the end, but for other big things that Life might present to her.  Praise in the face of trial is known to break down strongholds, so what I told her to do can apply to anything!

But it never hurts to be prepared about these things.

On October 17, 1989 at 5:04pm, I was at work in a high-rise building in the San Francisco financial district when the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake hit. It was a monster and I remember it being so loud!

“Where was I?” you ask

“Underneath my desk becoming a Catholic!”

Having grown up a Protestant, I had never made the Sign of the cross. But on that day? I was crouched down on my knees under my desk genuflecting and saying the Lord’s Prayer like crazy!   This didn’t come from some logical reasoning, but from my panic that in about 3 seconds flat I was going to be meeting God up-close-and-personal. Thankfully, we all made it out safely.

Eight years ago (back when I still had money) I worked out with a Trainer at Gold’s Gym a few mornings a  week after dropping the girls off at preschool. One morning, I did a  particularly hard regimen and I was in that state of queasy bliss you can sometimes get after a really hard workout.  Leaving Gold’s in my car, I sat at the red traffic light that crosses over a one-way street. My light turned green, but I didn’t go. I just sat there being spaced-out. Just then, a huge semi-truck whizzed past me going about 40mph, running the red light. Two seconds earlier, and his big Semi grill would have been plowing through my driver’s side door.  In that moment, I could almost visibly see through the thin veil that separates this life from the next one.  It was that close.

So Jessica’s question this morning made me think a little bit more about all this. What DO we do at the end?  It’s not so much a question of When since we all have a “when.”  That part is inevitable.  The bigger question for me is the “How.

How will I meet God face-to-face? Will I be afraid of a holy judgment; cowering and weeping in despair? Will I be obstinate; shaking my fist and shouting?  Will I be overcome with joy and peace, happy that I am part of the remnant? Or will my denial be showing: “Will He say he knows me?”

I see Judgment as sitting down with God to view the DVD of my life from the beginning to the end. I do think that generally speaking, God has a great sense of humor. But during the DVD phase, I seriously doubt that He will be laughing.  That will be the ultimate uncovering. No escaping the total truth about my life. Meh!

As a follower of Jesus, I believe that being redeemed or saved means that the DVD of my life will show nothing but absolute perfection because I invited Jesus to be my editor. He bought and paid for all the parts (past, present, and future) that he knew were going to make His Father cry, cutting them out and splicing them into his own movie that he called The Crucifixion: The Finished Work.

I tend to forget this, often still trying to “be good” and forgetting that the Grace of God is not a reward, but a gift. There is nothing to be done but just receive the gift, open it, say thank you, and then use it, wear it, read it, ride it, swim in it.  Because of that transactional moment when I said Yes to God’s offer, taking the 1-Step program out of darkness into the light, I know that my “How” will be filled with unfathomable joy and remembering that gives me a lot of peace.

If you want to know more about having a joyful “How” please email me at goalsandgrace@gmail.com

This is a great song about How:

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=FBECNNNU#alertbar

Coming up:

Blogs on “The plot to re-kill Lazarus” and “Obedience as Revelation, Not Rules.”

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Disobedience Uncovered

My teenager was really taking the cake this morning, not in a rambunctious way — he was just passively doing as he liked. I kept saying “Turn off your computer and come to breakfast!”

He finally came downstairs and said to me , “I love you mom” to which irritably replied, “If you love me, keep my commands!”

He looked at me funny, and in that moment I got in a deeper way what God means when He says that.

He does NOT mean ‘keep doing whatever and telling me how much you love me dude.’

New insight from parenting!

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