The Raven and the Eagle

“I am carrying on a great project, why should I leave this thing I am created and destined to do, in order to accomodate your threats?”

*eagleI’m sitting on my deck today, looking out at the view. If you have ever been to Homer, Alaska, you will understand it when I say that the view never gets old. But this time, as I am sitting in the stillness, the quiet is interrupted by the sound of a raven in the distance. With a constant cackling, and cawing, the raven is repeating a pattern of swooping down, then ascending again over the head of a bald eagle, perched in its nest. Sometimes the talons of the raven are bared as it descends in attempt to threaten the eagle away from its nest, and other times it uses its most frightening of noises in an attempt to appear more mighty than he is. The eagle flinches, returns a voice that tells the raven to back off, and perseveres through the seemingless endless taunting and threats. I watch in awe wondering how long the eagle will put up with the taunting, and I consider the  raven’s perseverence wondering when he will tire and finally give up.

As I watch this drama unfolding, my mind wanders to a passage in Nehemiah 6:1-9 and God begins speaking to me:

Nehemiah 6:1-9 (NIV)

1When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”

But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.

5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written:

“It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”

8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”

9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

If I were to characterize these people mentioned in the above story, Nehemiah would be the “Eagle” and Sanballat and his friends and aids would represent the “Raven”.

Nehemiah was a Jew who had been in the captivity of the Persian Empire as a result of when Babylon overthrew Jerusalem, burning its temple and city in 586 BC, and carrying off prisoners of war. That empire was then overtaken by the Persians in 539 BC and the Jewish people that remained in Babylon were now servants of Persia’s kingdoms and policies. Nehemiah was one of these men…serving the Persian King but longing for his homeland.

Nehemiah desires to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls and fortify the city again, as now many Jews have been given permission to return to their homeland. The King of Persia, Cyrus, agrees to let Nehemiah go and accomplish this dream. The King even helps fund the mission and provide materials for Nehemiah to rebuild the wall.

Even with the  King’s permission, the King’s resources and Nehemiah’s vision, discouragement and threats were in abundance. Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, and the other men of enemy nations of Israel, were hard at work to discourage Nehemiah from finishing what he started. They taunted, they threatened, they bared their talons as it were in order to remove Nehemiah from his assignment. I love Nehemiah’s response from verses 3 and 4:

“3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.”

Like the eagle on its nest, carrying on a great work, the raven’s attempts at dissuading it were met with a profound reality: “I am carrying on a great project, why should I leave this thing I am created and destined to do, in order to accomodate your threats?”

Then again, the enemy sent a provocative rumor in hopes to engage Nehemiah in battle over the purported lie, to which Nehemiah responds in verses 8 and 9:

8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”

9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Knowing the “Raven” was hoping to weaken his resolve and to wear him out with trouble, the “Eagle” considered his strength against the Raven, but did not rely on it to finish the task. Nehemiah prays, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Nehemiah knows he is on a God-sized assignment. That reality alone fuels his passion to finish, but he also knows that his dreams and desires are fires lit by God Himself, and God Himself would have to sustain them. Nehemiah had the strength of the eagle with the King’s resources, help, and permission, but his perseverance in the midst of persecution and threat, he credits to the presence of God in his life, and the purposes of God in his work.

Eventually the raven I am watching from my deck becomes tired of his threats not being taken seriously, and retires to a branch on a nearby tree. Squawking and cawing loudly as he perches, he takes a few more minutes to make noise, and eventually flies away unsuccessful.

Then another scripture comes to mind:

Isaiah 40:31(NIV)

31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

And I pray, “Lord strengthen my hands.”

 

*Photograph courtesy: Laural Sabin photography:Click here to see more of her work.

Memoires of His Presence

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Nine months ago, I stood in the room of 150 international, evangelism students in Orlando, Florida gathered to hear the Word of God and to join together in worship. In one of the sessions we began singing “I Exalt Thee”. Tears ran down my face like they did when I was nine years old standing in the front row of the church I grew up in as “Living Sound”, a ministry of Don Moen and Terry Law, led our congregation in worship with the same song. I felt the faithfulness of God who has carried me all of these years as I stood singing. My mind began to wander back…

All of these years…

I gave my heart to Jesus when I was five years old. My children’s pastor held a special crusade for kids and preached to us about eternity. About heaven, hell, God, Satan, the blood of Jesus and the forgiveness of our sin. I knew then that I wanted to spend eternity with God and that in order for me to do that, I needed to accept His Son Jesus, and have Him come into my heart and be the Lord of my Life. I was five. I went forward to receive Jesus in my heart, and I never looked back.

I can’t remember a day that I did not love the Lord. I can’t remember a day as a child when I wondered if He really loved me. I blogged before about my home life as a young girl, so you have got to know that life was not lovely for me or my family. I cried out to God at the altars of our church (which were the carpeted stairs leading up to the platform) when they would open them up for prayer. I prayed alot as a kid. The smell of carpet became the familiar place I would return to again and again as a child, and throughout my lifetime. I felt God meet me at those altars, and assure me of His love and hope for me. The presence of God became so precious to me even then. He saw me, He heard me, He answered me.

I was nine when “John Jacobs and the Power Team” came to my church to perform stunts of human strength, and preach the gospel. In the midst of muscular men breaking bricks with their heads, and blowing up hot water bottles until they burst, they spoke about the grace and forgiveness of God, and about the Holy Spirit whom God sent to empower us and baptize us with a fiery zeal to accomplish God’s purposes.

It was a Thursday night, and the promise was, after the “Power Team” concluded their presentations, anyone who wanted to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit could gather in the room behind the sanctuary, and John Jacobs would pray with us to receive what God had given in Acts chapter 2 of the Bible. I was quick to join the group that formed in that room.

John read to us out of the Book of Acts, how the disciples were gathered together in a room waiting for the Promised Holy Spirit that Jesus told them about who would “endue them with power from on high”. How there was a sound “as of a mighty rushing wind that filled the house where they were seated, and flaming tongues of fire descended on each one, and they were baptized in the Holy Ghost and began speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4). He told us, like Peter said, in Acts 2:39 “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

No one layed hands on me. I wasn’t sprinkled with anything, or given a list of requirements. This baptism was a gift from God, just like salvation is a gift, and all I needed to do was receive it. We lifted our hands in prayer and asked the Lord to baptize us with His Holy Spirit, and we began to worship. “Halleluia! Halleluia! Halleluia!” And soon my “Halleluia’s” became words I did not recognize, as I wept again in a strong presence of the Lord as the Holy Spirit baptized me and spoke through me in an unknown tongue. I was nine years old.

I knew what it was like to feel like I was in the presence of God as a child, but this Baptism in the Holy Spirit let me know what it felt like to have God’s presence inside of me. It was glorious! The scripture came alive that the “Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.”(Romans 8:26) I understood what it meant to have the Holy Spirit praying through me. Suddenly my prayer life took on a new dimension. When I didn’t know what to pray for, I would ask the Holy Spirit to pray through me and I would lift my voice in the language God gave me that night in the room behind the sanctuary where I gathered with other believers to receive that Baptism. It was a baptism that has marked my life. I understood that God lived in me. I began to see that God moves through me, and that God has committed Himself to me for the rest of my life–into life everlasting. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

I have been growing in this relationship with the Lord all of my life. I am 43 now. I know Who lives in me. I know What I carry. I know the Power at work within me, and the authority I have to bring God’s presence into any room. That is my honor, and that is His Glory. I will live to make Him known.

As we lifted our voices singing “I Exalt Thee” in that room in Orlando, Florida, I stood in God’s presence once again, and thanked Him for the heritage of faith He built in me, and for the joy and pleasure of serving Him with my whole life. I can’t think of anything sweeter on earth than His Presence, and I want to introduce you to Him too.

 

The Weeping

All I know is that I am to run to Mercy and take as many people as I can with me.

I was only 12 or 13 years old when the couple that I regularly babysat for were called to the mission field. He was a night stocker of groceries at the local grocery chain and slept during the days, and she worked at a local bank during daytime business hours.

They lived in a modest house in my hometown, and both worked hard to make ends meet and build their new life as a now family of four. I never asked them about their “American Dreams”, but perhaps that doesn’t matter, because I instead saw what happens to a person when God gives them a dream. They weep.

Their “Call” came through an introduction to a foreign nation to a foreign people by a missionary. This missionary shared his heart. He shared his love for his people. And my friends, Steve and Andrea were gripped to the core with a knowing that those people in Thailand, were to be “their” people and they were to sell all they had and move to Thailand.

I don’t know if I’d ever seen a grown man cry like Steve cried. His 6 foot, 6 inch frame would shake and tears would fall as the love for the people God had just put on their hearts began to grow and enlarge their capacity. His wife Andrea also was so overcome by the pulling of her heart to this nation they had never lived in, and people they did not yet fully know, and she would cry as one waiting to be reuinited with her family.

They began to ask, “How long do we need to continue to remain in America when God had clearly moved our hearts to Thailand?” They cried out for Thailand in their prayers. They spent their meal times fasting and praying for this thing that God had called them to. And in doing all of this, I watched them change before my eyes.

When they sold their home and temporarily moved in to an old farm house in a remote part of the area they discovered that it was infested with insects due to its long tenure without tenants. This home gave them more opportunity to save more money towards their mission goal, and as Andrea would smash spiders in the house, and chase off garter snakes, she would say, “I’m training for Thailand!”

The “Call” of God on a person’s life begins to change them. His desires become the gloves that the hands of the one “called” fit into. His heartbeat is the One that they hear when they lay their head down on the pillow at night. His longing for His people becomes the ache and the tears that run down the faces of those who have said, “Yes, I will go.” And suddenly their everyday life seems to lose focus, and the opportunity to share in the harvest of what God is doing begins to take shape as the only life worth living.

I am in that ache.

I weep more often. I find myself wishing for more time in prayer. I feel His call on my life, and it stirs in me like nothing else can.

My whole life has revolved around ministry since I was a small child. I love the Lord. I love being in His service. I love His church (with all her messes), and I love His servants whom I have had the privilege of joining the yoke with in many countries, states, and cities. And yet…

God spoke to me last Spring and told me to clear my calendar in order to learn some things He wanted to teach me. Not fully knowing what was in store, I answered “yes”, to some events that God used to shift my heart and renew my purpose. I wrote about them in earlier blogs.

I attended “Azusa Now” in Los Angeles, California in April and joined with over 65k people in prayer and intercession for our nation. A month later, I attended Reinhard Bonnke’s School of Evangelism, and have been weeping ever since. If you’ve forgotten about how good the news is that the Gospel brings, listen to Reinhard Bonnke preach on the “Jesus and the Adulterous Woman“, and like Paul Manwaring says, “You will fall in love with the Gospel all over again.”

God is renewing His call to me to the harvest fields. To the unsaved who need to know Him, who need to hear Him and who need Mercy and Grace to meet them right where they are. So right now I am in the season of weeping as the “Call” of God becomes formed in me. As I wait for my mission to match my commission, I weep, and pray, and fast.

If you find that my eyes puddle with tears more than they used to, all I can say is “God is forming me, and breaking my heart with the things that break His.” All I know is I am to run to mercy and take as many people as I can with me.

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Reinhard Bonnke’s School of Evangelism

All of the applications for the Reinhard Bonnke School of Evangelism were read and prayed over by Reinhard himself as he chose the 150 students who would attend the four days of classes in May 2016. I felt so privileged to be one of the accepted applicants. As I sat in the very first session Reinhard shared about how he looked over every application, and was particularly interested in one student. He scanned the room looking for the student who fit the description, while saying, “A ten-year-old boy.”

I think we were all surprised to see a young man stand to his feet. He was dressed in a suit, and he had come all the way from India. His father was by his side, also dressed in a suit. The boy was 10. God had called him into ministry and he wanted to be trained.

“I was ten years old when God called me.” Reinhard said. “And I do not take lightly the calling of God. I am so glad you are here!”

Well, that started the waterworks for me. My tears began. I remembered when God called me into ministry when I was 12 years old. I remembered the men and women who invested into my life at that time helping to equip me. I preached, I sang, I prayed, I evangelized, I prophecied, I studied, I worshiped, and I walked in a boldness that only God could give to someone at my age. That boldness carried through my junior high, highschool and Bible school years.

I was ready to take on the nations by the time I was 21, and I had committed my life to the Great Commission.

I was so thrilled to see that young man there with us.

Every speaker for the four day school, shared the experience of the power of the Holy Spirit and the passionate love and grace of Jesus that marked their lives. From Reinhard himself whose 30 years on the continent of Africa have become a harvest of souls giving their lives to Jesus at a rate exceeding tens of millions, to Todd White whose love for people on the streets of every state and country he has walked in, has been a powerful catalyst for them coming to Jesus and receiving even physical healing in the process.

I wanted to hear Reinhard especially. I had read his books as a teenager. I had seen clips of his crusades in Africa, and I remember weeping as a young person over the joy of seeing people come to Jesus. I was thrilled by the healing miracles that always followed the Gospel message. Deaf ears opened, lame legs walking, and even dead lives raised up again. It was my first time to see God’s power in action when the Gospel was preached, and I knew that is what I wanted to be like. I wanted God to use my life like that.

Reinhard would continually call himself “a predecessor” in evangelism, and that we in the room would do more and hopefully exponentially more than he could accomplish in his lifetime.

I can’t describe to you entirely what it feels like to sit in a room where everyone there believes that nothing is impossible–fully certain that God can transform nations, and that the harvest can be reaped millions at a time just as easily as one at a time.

“One on one, or one on a million! Every life matters!” Reinhard would say.

Just when I was beginning to feel like being a woman disqualified me from the things I felt God called me to, God renewed in me the passion to preach the Gospel and pray for the sick.

“Your flame has your name.” was another quote from Reinhard. The flame of the Holy Spirit God has given you is tailored to the ministry God has called you to. You don’t need another person’s flame, you need your own, and you need to get going!

Among 150 students from countries all around the world, I joined in worship, weeping, praying, praise, prophecy, and encouragement with brothers and sisters from Uganda, Nigeria, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, India, Mexico, and the US. I watched lives catch fire for God, and I witnessed those already burning propelled further towards the call God had for them. As I worshiped, I felt the Lord’s faithfulness of having carried me all of these years. I felt Him redeeming all of my years. Even those years that were so difficult, and I wrestled with my faith, and was angry about my calling, as I felt set up for failure. He loved me still. He carried those years. He has never been in doubt of choosing His call for my life.

I’m beginning again, I feel. I have been teaching, leading in worship, writing music, encouraging and praying for all of these years, but that “thing” that is written in my flame that has yet to be seen among those I have lived near these past 20 years, is glowing hot again. I’m called to preach the Gospel. As God opens the doors, I will be stepping through them!

I go from here to a summer of commercial fishing with my family–three months in the waters of the Pacific in Alaska. I will try to blog our family adventures as we go, so stay tuned. I also hope to blog about this new thing God is doing in me, and when we return to land in the Fall, I hope to put boots on the ground and be busy about my Father’s business.

Azusa Now 2016

I don’t even know how to put it all in words.

The stimulus around me in the Los Angeles Memorial Colliseum with 60K+ people was almost too much to take in, but too glorious to miss!

It took about half an hour before I could get into the stadium at the beginning. The lines fanned out around the coliseum in all directions. I stood next to a man from Australia who came for this event. Behind me a large group of women were speaking Spanish.

When I finally entered the building and found my seat, the stage before me was filled with Koreans who were praying down heaven over America. That’s when my tears started, and there was no stopping them. I decided right then and there that if you have a prayer need, grab a Korean and ask them to pray. I think God Himself could almost be yanked out of heaven through the prayers of these passionate faithful men and women.  In both English and Korean, they prayed for America. Prayers for holiness, faith, hope and love in this land again. They prayed for unity, for forgiveness, and for the life of God to breathe in us again. They prayed for North Korea. They prayed that God would send more South Korean’s to North Korea with the gospel. They were so strong in prayer, and I wept at the blessing and heritage they were sharing with us in Los Angeles.

Prayers went up for the First Nations people of America. They prayed for the end of suicide and alcoholism, they prayed that they would awaken and take their place in the Spirit of God as sons and daughters of God with a purpose and a destiny. It was glorious, it was heart-rending, and it was powerful.

Prayer, worship, and declarations continued. There was the sound of tens of thousands of people lost in worship, singing with all of their hearts with the worship band on the stage who was cranking out music that went right to the very soul, and there was “open” area of the floor of the Coliseum where children, and adults were dancing, waving banners, and even turning cartwheels as they worshiped freely with all of their strength. This beautiful tumult was punctuated with the large group of people cheering and shouting as a man who had come to the event in a wheelchair, was now taking steps around the arena. He was swarmed by people raising iPhones above their heads in hopes of capturing this incredible miraculous moment.

Behind me six rows was a young man praying to be set free from drug addiction while his father wept over him. Students had gathered around this precious family and began to speak life and hope into them.

I couldn’t see it all. Brain cancer was being healed, deaf ears were being opened, six more people got up out of wheelchairs and began to walk, people were giving their lives to Jesus for the first time, and hundreds were coming back to Jesus who had walked away from Him. The miracles were happening all around the stadium, in the outer hallways, in the parking lots, and around the world as people tuned in to watch the event live.

I couldn’t keep from weeping. Hourly, moment by moment for the 15 hours.

The rain would begin to pour, and we in the audience would quickly don our rain coats, or ponchos, pull our hoods up over our heads and I would stand so that the water would run straight down me rather than pooling in my lap.

This was an historic event. One I had prayed to see since I was a teenager asking God to send a revival to our nation. To see on the stage a representative from so many ethnic groups and races represented in prayer, forgiveness, and reconcilliation, was a powerful sight.

 

Lou Engle encouraged all attendees to not interact as though we were there to see an event, but to respond as one Body as the leaders led us in prayer, worship, repentance, and honor. We stood together, we knelt together, we shouted, we prayed, we applauded. When there was a request for silence, the hum and buzz of 60k + people quieted as if a blanket rested on all of us. There were such holy moments.

I flew over 2000 miles to be there, and I didn’t want to miss a thing.

I’m quite sure there will be more to this event that I will process later, but I am so thrilled to have been a part of an event that will shape history. I agree with Lou Engle in this: “The answer to a divided nation is a united church.”

May we continue to forgive, reconcile, and stand with one another for the healing of our nation.

http://www.thecall.com/azusa

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Pass It On

2015-06-07 18.40.08.jpgThis particular blog that I am writing today passes through a lot of pain. I feel compelled to write it for the sake of others who may be standing in the place I will describe. I am praying as I write it, that my words articulate well the message, and my heart faithfully carries the meaning.

I was the favorite child of my father when I was little. I was the baby girl. With one older brother almost three years my senior, and another older brother in heaven, I was the grand finale of children (or so my parents thought).

I was about three years old when I began to notice that my dad treated my mother poorly. One poignant memory was when my mom and dad were arguing, and my mom gathered my brother and I and headed to the car to go to town. My father chased my mother down, grabbed her car keys and threw them into our overgrown horse pasture. I remember spending a good portion of the rest of the afternoon helping my mom find those keys. We never did get to leave. This was one of many incidents where I watched my father overpower my mother. And if it wasn’t overpowering her physically, he would use his words to make her feel unlovely, rejected, small, and insignificant. He was a man who lived in constant fear of losing power.

Maybe that’s why my brother became his next target. Boys can grow up to be men. Men can overpower other men. My Dad seemed to work a plan to ensure that his son would never succeed at manhood by using the same methods on him as he did my mother. He belittled him, gave him chore after chore, bullied him, never praised him for his work, and rarely showed him affection. He was determined to always be dominate, and make my brother subordinate.

I, on the other hand, brought my Dad a lot of attention. I could sing. I began soloing as a singer at 5 years old. My Dad decided we should be touring musical family, so he bought sound equipment, background tracks, and we as an entire family sang together. My Dad had a good voice, my mother sang like an angel, and my brother had a great voice that he would lend to the “ministry”. Maybe because I was the youngest, and a girl, and didn’t mind soloing, I got a lot of attention. And that attention was great for me. It affirmed my gifting, it encouraged me to keep going, and it taught me how to express thoughts to a large group of people. The attention shined favorably upon my parents as well. My Dad soaked it up. He could take credit for such talent, and he was esteemed in the places we went for his “beautiful godly family.”

The abuses of my mother and my brother continued. As a child I observed it, not having any power to stop it. I made mental notes: “Stay on Dad’s good side.” “Always look busy.”
“Just keep singing.” There were times, though, that even my cuteness could not overcome the anger and rage of my father, and I would be a recipient of his wrath. It was always out of control, and I still shudder in my memories of it.

I was around nine years old when I formulated a plan that I was sure would turn the tide in our family. I noticed that my Dad would hug me in front of my brother, and bark out orders to him to go do some sort of chore. While he would hold me, he would belittle my brother and tell him what a failure he was. I watched this scenario play out while I was within the grasp of my Dad’s “love”. I couldn’t stand for it anymore.

My plan was to stop hugging my Dad. If my Dad didn’t get hugs from me, maybe he would reach out to my brother! Maybe he would notice the deficit, and realize he needed to do something about it. Once he noticed the loss, I mused, he would begin hugging my brother, and then, I could begin hugging him again and everything would be even. It was a perfect plan in my mind.

Oh, but you can’t force love. You can’t mamipulate kindness or compassion out of someone who doesn’t want to give it. You can only make them more and more fearful of losing power by changing your role. That’s when the tables began turning.

My Dad saw my lack of affection as rejection of him which began to complicate and compound his insecurities. He needed a way to get back what I was not giving. I wouldn’t budge. He became angry, and I received his wrath. And although I hated how he treated me, something about it was satisfying because at least my mother and brother were no longer alone. Now we were all on the same playing field.

That sick satisfaction worked its way into depression, and I along with my mother and brother were suicidal and wanted out of living.

My younger sister came into the picture when I was thirteen years old. I think it was her birth that was the catalyst to give us all the courage to walk out of the abuse. Knowing the kind of childhood we had up until then, My brother and I promised to help our mom get out. My brother got a night job to provide for us. My mom borrowed money from dear friends to hire a lawyer and file for divorce. Our church helped to set us up with temporary housing while in transition, and we stayed in a homeless shelter, and later, a motel. The lunch ladies at the school I attended sent me home with the lunch left-overs so that we could have a reheatable dinner at night. I took on the role as second Mama for my little sister while my Mom pursued training for a job. I was sixteen when my parents finally divorced. My brother was 18, and my little sister was almost three.

The one thing a child always wants to hear from their parents is “I am proud of you.” They want to their parents to reflect on their child’s accomplishments throughout grade school, junior high, high-school, and beyond, and say “You are so amazing!” “I love you!” Girls want to hear that they are beautiful, that they are a prize, and they want to hear their parents speak into their future with words of hope, encouragement, and blessing. Boys want to hear that they are capable, strong, great learners and future leaders. They need to hear praise for the works of their hands, and the efforts of their intellect. They need to be told they are becoming great men, and their efforts are appreciated and invaluable.

It starts in your home.

You can watch movies like “8 Seconds”, and “Ragamuffin”, and many others that show the results of adult men growing up without the praise of their fathers. It will rip your heart out. Un-praised men will always be looking for approval. Maybe in a virtual world, or by becoming work-a-holics, becoming addicted to porn or alcohol, or struggling with their sexual identity.  Likewise, girls without praise grow up to either seek affection from multiple men, become work-a-holics, live a life of servitude, or struggle with their sexual identities as they wonder “what’s so great about being female?”

You don’t have to be an abuser by nature to withhold this most important piece of your child’s well-being. You might feel you have “righteous reasons” for your lack of affection and praise. “Well, I don’t want my children to become proud”, you may say to yourself. “They should instinctively know I love them without me having to say it.” or “If I praise them too much they will have too much confidence and leave me, and I can’t risk that.”

Whatever has tricked you out of the greatest blessing you have to pass on, is complete crap. COMPLETE CRAP, I said.

Moms, Dads, own your wounds. Own your shortcomings. Be responsible for what you are or are not providing for your family, and while you still have breath in your lungs, and the ability to communicate love and gratitude–do it! It doesn’t matter if your children are 50 years old now. If you never gave them that piece of the puzzle–your affirmation, spoken love, or affection, get to it!

If you are raising children now and you are tempted to spend your breath on belittling them, or speaking doom and gloom into their future–Stop it! Put your hand on your mouth. Don’t let your children hear you belittle their siblings. Don’t let your children hear you break them down with your words. Discipline is correction, not dismembering.

Life is precious. Love is powerful. Your words and actions will outlive you. If you have anything left in your heart to bless your children with, by any and all means–pass it on.

 

 

One Square of Toilet Paper

Toilet Paper SquareYears ago I worked as a pre-school teacher in a school my Mom directed. One day one of my three-year-old boy students had to use the bathroom, so I dismissed him to go, only to have him absent for a very long time. When I finally went to investigate as to what was taking him so long, the sight before my eyes was overwhelming.

I stepped into the boy’s bathroom to see my little student with his underwear around his ankles, diarrhea running down his legs, and that same substance all over the seat of the toilet. He was holding one square of toilet paper pinched between his index finger and thumb, and with that one square he was wiping the toilet seat. He looked up at me and said, “I will clean it Cheacher!”

Have you ever experienced something in life that was so overwhelming, and seemingly unending? Maybe you, like me, have been through seasons of life that felt like an overwhelming mess, and all you had was a square of toilet paper to combat it all with. Your inadequacy becomes highlighted by the trouble around you. Maybe you are in that season now.

Life can become unbearable. (I’ve blogged on the actual meaning of the scripture “God will not give you more than you can bear” and you can read it here.)  If you’ve lost a loved one, or struggled to keep a family together that was falling apart at the seams, you know what I am talking about. If you are battling a terminal disease, or chronic illness, you have felt this sense of overwhelming “crap”. Our own sorrows, chemical imbalances, depressions, and outlooks can also surround us and leave us feeling isolated without hope.

The “why?” questions that surround our agonies are deep and individual, and I cannot address them all here, but I want to highlight a way through our pain, and it starts with that one square of toilet paper.

One of our first mistakes in dealing with trouble and pain, is that we think we can do it ourselves. Much like the little boy in the restroom with his thumb and forefinger firmly pinched on the tissue, we gingerly go about the task of wiping up the mess. We all have our reasons for going it alone: “I don’t want to bother others with my trouble,” or “It’s no one else’s business anyways,” or “I don’t want anyone to see me like this.” All of these reasons are certainly valid in our minds, and anything less than this would be an embarrassment, and we would rather deal with our own trouble on our own terms. But the job becomes arduous, and the smell becomes overwhelming. We suddenly find we have been “absent” for a very long time. People begin wondering what happened to us. The last time they saw us, we were headed to the bathroom…

We need to cry out for help. First of all, we need to call out to God who loves us and sees us right where we are. If ever we needed the Head Janitor to get us out of our messes, it is when we are becoming buried in them. The good news is that He has a way through them already planned, and has promised to stoop down into our calamity and clean it up, and walk us out. Sometimes the walk “out” isn’t all at once, but he makes the way clearer step by step, and very often He uses people to reach us, bringing more and more squares of toilet paper to our aid.

We need to accept help. If we could release the pinch of our fingers around our “do it myself” mentality, and reach for help, we would find a greater arsenal for moving through the pain. Pastors, mentors, close friends, counselors, doctors, treatment facilities, and people with gifts of service can often provide the support we need and help us walk out of our distress. Every phone call from a friend, every meal shared, every hand extended, every word of encouragement, and every act of service being performed around us, for us, and on our behalf, is the goodness of God coming to rescue us from our crap. We need to let people into our lives to help us.

I so admired my little student’s determination and eagerness to take care of the mess he made on his own. It was clear to me however, that his resources and efforts would not be enough to fix the trouble. So I quickly went to work– first cleaning up my student. Calling another teacher in, we went about the task of changing his clothes and washing him up. Then I gathered up mops, paper towels and disinfectant and cleaned the bathroom. (Realize that sometimes our messes don’t just affect us. There may be further clean-up required.)

This is how God works on our behalf. Because He loves us, He says he will come when we call on Him. Because He is a Redeemer, Creator, and Restorer, He knows just what we need, and He has the strength we need to see it through.

May this blog today be one more square of toilet paper in your arsenal. God sees you, loves you, and wants to break into your mess. He has the resources, patience, compassion, and plan to walk you through whatever you are facing, with the power to free you from the heaviness, and redeem everything you feel you have lost. Call out to Him today.

Psalm 103:1-4
1 Praise the Lord, my soul;

all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

I Want to See You

purple flowersBetween the boiling of macaroni and cheese, and the shooing of a toddler out of my dishwasher, I was writing the lyrics of a song. I was reflecting on the beauty of God and the many places I saw His handiwork, and as I was hustling about the kitchen, trying to get lunch on the table for the four children, I began to pray that God would display His glory in me.

It is probably the prayer of every godly mother that they somehow reflect Christ in such a way that their children see it and follow Jesus because of it.  It was mine that day. I thought of the mothers with prodigal children, and the diligence of those mother’s prayers as they refused to give up in prayer for the salvation of their son or daughter. A mother’s love can be relentless like that. I wanted to be relentless too.

I thought of the faith of God’s people who refused to give up their faith in God in the midst of persecution and ended up giving up their lives in death as a result. I wanted that kind of faith.

I made a mess of the kitchen. Nearly burned the lunch, and frantically, put food on the table, in hopes of having 10 minutes to myself to finish the song in my head…if I could just make it to the piano without being disrupted.

Knowing my memory can be short term when raising toddlers and small children, I decided I had better record what I had so far, so I could go back later and finish, but I had nothing to record with. That’s when I remembered my son had a PlaySchool cassette recorder with a microphone. It was a toddler toy in primary colors, and it was my best shot at keeping the thoughts in my head from escaping forever.

I dug through the toy pile in my son’s closet and found the forgotten tape player. I checked it for batteries, quickly replaced the dead ones, and sprinted to my piano. I grabbed some scotch tape along the way to tape the “on” button of the microphone down, so that I could set it on my piano, in order to play and sing at the same time.

My oldest daughter was eight at the time, and she asked what I was doing. I told her I had a song in my head and I wanted to get it out before I forgot, so I was going to record. This is when the toddler noticed a new toy out on the piano and suddenly wanted it. I had to work fast. “Wait, that’s my toy!” Oh, no! My son just noticed too! Hurry Cate!

Well, I got the tape rolling on record, the microphone set and ready and I began to sing.  Two lines into the melody, I see these little chubby hands reaching for the mic. Trying not to break my rhythm, I blocked the little hands, and pushed them away, and kept playing the piano. A second attempt, now bumped the piano keys, and I again, shooed the hands away. Then came my young son, the owner of the tape recorder, and he wanted to sing into the mic. I shooed him away without trying to say any words as to not mess up my recording.

I lost my train of thought, and the little hands kept grabbing. Their voices now turned to whining and fighting over who would get the toy, and I lost it.

I turned around sharply and began to yell at my children. “Get back from the piano, take your siblings, and go to your rooms!” I don’t want to see you for 10 minutes! Give me 10 minutes!!”

My eight year old daughter looked at me with an expression that seemed to ask “What are you doing Mom?”

I looked at her earnestly and with my still angry, harsh tone said, “I am trying to write a song about being like Jesus, and everyone keeps interrupting me!!”

The look on her face confirmed everything my mind was suddenly informing me on…you just blew it!

My tone softened, and I said to my daughter, “I don’t suppose Jesus acts like this much, does He?”

Well, I had to apologize. I was trying to do too many things at once, and had expected my kids to read my mind as to what I was doing, and what I needed, and when they didn’t, I blew up. We made amends, and my oldest girl offered to take the kids in the room to play while I finished. And I finished the song.

It’s been nearly 10 years since I wrote this song, but I have to say that my prayer has not changed. I want to see God’s grace at work in me despite myself, and only time will tell the story. I guess I have no need of that grace however, if I have no struggle, and I will never know that grace if I myself do not know how to repent.

So, here I am 10 years later, a work in progress. Still praying that God shows Himself strong in me for the sake of my family, my neighbors, and the world. Maybe this is your prayer too.

Here is the song, “I Want to See You“. Click and enjoy!

A Note to Self from Psalm 103


sunrise

Cate,

Praise the Lord with everything in you. Let every part of your heart and emotions, will, and strength bless the Lord. Allow yourself the permission to praise God in that way, and when you don’t feel like it, I want you to tell your soul to do it anyways.

Praise Him for the things He has done in you. Do you remember how he brought you out of bitterness and a home of anger and hopelessness? Do you remember how He carried you through the roughest of days, and provided help and healing to you when you needed it most? Do you recall how He has assured you that He heard your every cry? Do you remember how He comforted you?

He forgives your sins, Cate–even those secret ones—those sins in your mind that you have given so much attention to over the years—those secrets. You confessed them and God forgave you. Not only that, He gave you victory over them, and a way to walk out of them.

He continues to heal your body, and cause you to have health that invigorates your life.

You could have lived in the pit of despair. You could have stayed on the road to bitterness and destruction, but God redeemed you and brought you out of that. He even gave you crowns to wear. Those crowns are  things people can see—love and compassion. People look at you and know that you are loved and have received much compassion.

There are many appetites you have had over the years, and things you thought you wanted or needed. God has satisfied your life with good things. Some things you thought you needed, He did not give you, in order that you might have the things that truly satisfy. He gives you things that enrich your life and give you hope and energy to face the day as if you were young again–soaring like an eagle.

The Lord always does what is right. He will bring about justice to all who are oppressed, even if right now you cannot see their relief. (Remember, He is eternal, and His plans do not end with the cessation of your life or the lives of others. He will do the right thing always, and His ways are just.)

Moses knew God’s ways because Moses invested his life in God’s promises. The people of Israel were able to see His mighty acts, and how He answers the prayers of a righteous man, and how He fulfills His promises.

Cate, God is compassionate. He isn’t quickly aroused to anger, as though He has no fuse or patience with us. He is overflowing in love. He is the source of love, and there is still plenty to go around. Those who know Him know this well.

He doesn’t keep a record against us forever, nor stew and fume in anger forever. (He always gives you a chance to repent, to turn from your evil.) Even though your sin is deserving of much more punishment and consequences, He gives you grace, and you do not get all that you deserve.

You can’t measure the distance of the heavens above the earth, and yet that is just how is love is quantified—without measure.

He is able to remove your sin so far away from you that you can’t find it. Just as you cannot find where east ends and west begins if you travel either direction.

Watch a good father interact with his kids. He has such compassion on them. His children don’t know it all yet, and they will make many mistakes. This is how God treats us. He knows how He made us and what we know and what we have yet to learn.

Our lives are fragile and short–like the grass that seems to have a quick growing season, and then dies off. We look beautiful like flowers in bloom, but then our time is up, and we are gone. The wind reaps the blossoms, dries the stems, and makes the field barren.

But God is not temporary like we are. From everlasting to everlasting His love stays with us. His unfailing ability to always do the right thing continues in the lives of our children, and our children’s children. All those who honor God and submit their lives to Him get this inheritance—forever.

God is firmly established on His throne in Heaven. No one can remove Him, and no one can usurp His rule. From His throne He rules over all things. Forever.

I don’t know the angels. I haven’t met those beings that surround God’s throne, but I know that they were created for God. So, sing to God all His angels! Every creature or being created by God for His purposes—sing! Praise the Lord!

Every nation He has created. Every church, and family that honors His name. Every man, woman and child who knows who their Creator—Sing! Praise the Lord!! Give Him the honor that is due Him.

Don’t forget these things, Cate. You will need to keep all of these things in mind throughout your lifetime. Always Praise the Lord. (It’s good for your soul)

Decomplimentation

Already you are wondering if I have any grasp on the English language I am sure just by the title of this post.  No, this word (The blog’s title) is not in the dictionary, but in the Morris house, it is understood alongside other words such as “availabiliwality”, and “confusational”.  We love to make up new words.

It was on a long drive with my son Chad that the word “decomplimentation” came into existence.  After my son, attempting to bribe me into buying him something by telling me I was the best mother in the world, and that I was the most beautiful of all, had to change his strategy when I was unrelenting.  It was all in good fun, mind you, and we both laughed about it as he said, “Okay, if that is not going to work, the “decomplimentation” will begin in 3…2…1.”  Then he said I was “the nerdiest mom in the world”, and my feet “smelled like cheese.”  Compliments turned to insults (in a funny way in this case.)

Decomplimentation.  I’ve thought a lot about that word, and discovered a definition for it that I have observed. Decomplimentation could be defined as:  Complimenting a person in a way that keeps them from feeling good about the compliment.  For example:  “You are such a good cook.  I really hate that.” or “Well, you always were the favorite….(sigh…awkward silence…).  Or “I like you now, but I would have hated you in high school.”  You could probably insert your own examples here too.  (I have too many to list).

Decomplimentation can come from anywhere–parents “Well, at least your good at something. You had me worried for awhile.” Or siblings:  “You got all of the smart genes.  I just got your hand-me-downs.”  Friends:  “Of course you travel!  Let’s just call you ‘been there, done that.'”

Decomplimentation has less to do with the compliment than it has to do with the insecurities or jealousies of the one speaking them.  When a genuine compliment just can’t be delivered and left on the doorstep, decomplimentation ensues.  The person decomplimenting must show you that your success or happiness, or skill set causes them to feel small, insignificant, overshadowed, overlooked, or unnecessary.  And while it is human nature to compare ourselves to others, it is the surest way to live a small life.

I have to admit, I am a person who keeps a lot of good news to herself.  If something great happens to me or people close to me, you might not see me post it on Facebook.  Instead, I reserve those things in my heart and share them with people who do not use decomplimentation.  I know which individuals will take that information and turn it back to me in such a way that I feel badly for having something good happen in my life.  It sucks the joy right out of me when they do.  At the same time, I seek out my cheerleaders, and encouragers. –the ones who say “That’s awesome!! I can’t believe that happened!” or “Tell me all about it!  That sounds so good!”  These people know how to encourage me and fuel my passions.

For many years, after being “decomplimented” by someone, I would spend the next several minutes (or hours) trying to build up the self-esteem of the person who just spoke to me.  “No–you’re smart too!  I mean look at the business you developed, and how you train all of those employees…” or I try the other approach which is making myself smaller so that they feel good about me again–“Oh, I’m not really that good, its just that no one has discovered it yet, so my disguise must be working.” I have found that this drains the life right out of me, and causes me to lose confidence in who God made me to be. My time was spent expending a lot of energy either defending myself, disguising myself, or trying to buoy up the person in front of me so that their words didn’t sting.

 

 

Galatians 6:4-5 says “Each one should test their own actions.  Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.”

If you are one on the receiving end of “decomplimentation”, here is what I suggest:  Let the comments fall to the ground after they have been spoken.  You don’t need to make the other person feel better about themselves in order to make their words less painful.  They chose their words, they can be responsible for them.  If, however, you are on the receiving end of these hurtful words over and over by someone, you may need to set aside a time to speak with them to let them know how their words hurt you or make you feel. Oftentimes people who decompliment don’t even know they are doing it, often it is a bad habit they have been doing since childhood.  If you want to respond to someone’s “decomplimentation”, respond in the “opposite spirit”.  When someone says to me “You are really good at such and such, and I can’t stand it…” I choose to give them a genuine compliment like “I really love this about you..(fill in the blank).”  No clauses, stings, snide remarks, or martyrdom.

Learn to celebrate others.  Give genuine compliments when you feel them and end them with a period before you are tempted to add anything else.  And when you are jealous, (and we all are from time to time), take that to God and talk to Him about it.  Allow the Lord to show you your strengths, and what He has put in you, and use them for His glory.

All of us are created unique in God’s image with purpose.  God has planned for all of us to have joy in being who He made us to be.  He Himself delights in us and who we are.  So we can’t live an abundant life if we spend it comparing ourselves with someone else.  No, we need to go to God with our insecurities and ask the Holy Spirit to give us courage to be who we were created to be.  Then, BE THAT PERSON!

1 Thessalonians 5:11a says:  “Encourage one another and build each other up…”

Hebrews 3:13

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “today”, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

There are those of us who “decompliment” and there are those of us who deflect compliments when they are genuinely given.  I’ll talk more about the deflectors in my next blog.

My prayer for you today is to find your value in God alone.  He who created you with purpose, passion, gifts and talents, has also made a way for you to enjoy Him fully while enjoying who He made YOU to be.  Keep growing.  Keep shining.

Have you ever been decomplimented?  How did you respond?

Are you a decomplimenter?  How could you choose your words differently?

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