Have you ever had one of those gifts that only you knew you really wanted or were looking for, but then all the sudden it showed up, as a gift straight from Jesus? Well, that was my recent experience in South Africa.
Journals have always been important to me–special. I am not one who journals every day, but some things just need to be recorded–life journeys, journeys with God, stones of remembrance. Those are the sorts of things that make their way into my journals. Each journal marks a season of life somehow. I can look at a journal and am reminded about so many things in that particular season. Some of my journals are just a “purchase” but others are really a stone of remembrance.
Last August, I had just finished a journal recording some very dark and hard places, and I felt like the Lord had a special journal for me for the next leg of the journey. He had put a particular store on my mind for a journal, but when I got there, the store was actually out of business and there was a second hand store there instead. I thought it was strange that He put that store on my heart and then it didn’t exist, so I just decided to go into the second hand store and look anyway. Would you believe that there was ONE journal. I didn’t even know that these stores would sell a journal, but they did AND it was new and not written in. I just knew it had been specially picked for me–for this season. Here it is:
Funny thing, but when I saw it, I wasn’t that excited. It was monochrome. It wasn’t very pretty, and “growing things in silence” didn’t sound very fun to me. Truth be told, it hasn’t been fun–at all–but in coming to the end of this journal I wrote in ink in a circle around that tree, “…They will be called OAKS of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:3. That’s my prayer…that this season and the roots that grow in deep places in sorrow and suffering will produce strength and fruit from Jesus like none other and that I will display His splendor somehow.
As I closed out this journal during my trip to Africa, I felt like the Lord had a new journal for me specifically from South Africa for this next season for some reason. When I was there in early March, I had asked one of the women at the conference if she knew where I could buy a South African journal in Johannesburg. She gave me a couple of great ideas, and I was heading to the city that next Saturday and was going to look.
Right before I left Camp Eden, I had breakfast with John and Lorna Abrahmse, two dear friends that run a ministry called J-life where I was staying and participating in their annual summit. As breakfast was being prepared I was talking with Lorna and saw a bar of chocolate on the table–a kind I had never seen before. I asked about that flavor, and she said, “Oh, that’s actually for you, and this is too,” and she handed me a journal–a South African journal.
I was actually somewhat speechless, because, as many of you know, I always have tea and chocolate every morning with Jesus–even in Africa, though it’s a little melty there sometimes :-), and I had just run out that very morning. And…the journal. Lorna had no idea that I was planning to go to Johannesburg to buy a South African journal, but the Giver of all good gifts did. He amazes me. In addition to the gift of a South African journal, He even gave me one that is fun and colorful for this next season! I’m so excited about that, let me just tell you!
His gifts–He knows us and provides for us in intimate ways if we have eyes to see–sometimes before we even ask. Thank you, Lorna, for your sweet generosity and for being the conduit of His good gifts to me! I’m so grateful…
God’s got an army…
Having just spent two weeks in Africa, I came back with significant things on my heart and mind–kingdom things.
It has to do with Light and Darkness and an army that God is raising up, and I would love to invite you to be a part of this army!
Before leaving for Africa, a couple friends shared about light. One had been praying for my trip and shared that she saw a stream of light move across Africa. An elder at our church and a friend, not even two hours later, shared that he was reading Genesis with Jesus constantly in mind. God’s first command is “let there be light.” The sun was commanded “to govern” the day and the moon “to govern” the night. He noted that “light” brings governance and authority. Having just completed a study of Revelation, he further noted that Jesus is the ONLY light in heaven, proclaiming that no other authority/light is needed. Jesus is it!
“What does that have to do with Africa?” you might ask! Great question!
(Pictured below are some of the warriors in hand to hand combat on the ground throughout Africa. I met and spent time with many of them on this last trip and some of them I have known for years!)
In attending a “summit” of African ministry leaders in February, our South African leader shared a picture that had come from their intercessory team praying over Africa and our time together. It was a picture of streams of light, sort of like lightning bolts, shooting throughout the continent of Africa.
Now call me crazy, but it seems like Jesus is sending some sort of message about LIGHT in Africa through all different sources, and light has to do with authority! Much of Africa has a foundation of witchcraft, demonic, dead men’s bones, corruption, fear, and ancestor worship. As many times as I have been in Africa and spent time with my loved African brothers and sisters, I had NO IDEA some of the things that are accepted as absolutely normal in a cultural setting, even a Christian African setting, until this trip as generational sin and bondage were addressed.
The enemy has held authority in some of these areas for generations–FAR TOO LONG. I believe that our King Jesus wants to expose some of these dark things, bringing His light and authority to the foundations of the African continent. If that’s true, then we have a WAR on our hands, though the Victor is assured and absolute!
I believe the Lord is calling the church to battle more actively for freedom from the tyranny of the enemy’s authority in Africa. Even though I don’t understand it fully, prayer holds POWER in the heavenly realms and brings His kingdom on EARTH as it is in heaven. (Read Revelation 8:1-5 if you have any doubts about that. Wow!).
Would you be willing to be one of the warriors of light that will pray His light and authority into the foundations of the African continent in this season? Will you commit one time a day, one time a week, one time a month–some sort of true commitment marked on your calendar–to pray for Africa by yourself, with your family, with your small group?
If so, it would be wonderful to hear from you, just for encouragement. I am serious about being part of God’s army recruitment in this season as “Aslan is on the move” in Africa and I want to join Him. Will you?
Beauty in Dying
Last weekend I had the honor of attending the funeral of Judy Fisher, the mom of my elementary and high school friends, Wyatt and Eric. Her death was so very unexpected–a tragic car accident days after celebrating their 50th anniversary and 4 days before the actual anniversary date. Death. So hard. So unexpected. So NOT the way it was supposed to be.
As I was driving to the funeral, it was pouring down rain–flash flood pouring. It seemed like Jesus’ tears to me–weeping at death. Lazarus’ death–Judy’s death. It’s personal to Him. I know that, and I believe this dear family does too. It’s not His plan.
As we were heading to the gravesite, the sun started shining. While driving, I noticed the incredible beauty of the trees with the sun on their leaves. It’s fall. The leaves are dying…going into hibernation, awaiting His breath that brings life to spring–kind of like Judy, although her spring was also immediate. Jesus. Joy. Laughter. Perfection. It’s us that await the breath of spring, not really her.
Even so, as I looked at the trees, I was thinking how like God it is to put beauty in dying. Doesn’t seem like there is much about dying that’s good, and yet there’s beauty, which means He’s present in it, as there is no beauty apart from Him. In nature, the beauty comes through changing leaves, fall colors and fading flowers, but with Judy’s death, it came through words of honor from her oldest son, the testimony of Christ in song and word in the service, a tribute by a dear family friend, the reflection of Christ’s resurrection’s power spoken by her younger son, and the grief of friends and family who deeply mourned and loved Judy, as she lived beautifully.
There was beauty there–in the midst of darkness and death. “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art WITH me.” There’s no beauty apart from Him.
Beauty in dying…how very like Him.
As I gazed out my kitchen window in the cool of early morning a couple days ago, I saw something that caught my attention. There were some sunflowers that my neighbor had planted in her perennial bed next door. I haven’t spent much time studying sunflowers before, but for some reason that morning, my attention was riveted on these little bursts of color and beauty.
The sun was just beginning to peak its head out, and the amazing thing was that as the sun continued to make it’s way up into the early morning sky, the sunflowers’ faces continued to move with the sun. I guess theoretically I knew that sunflowers were named such for a reason, but it never really struck me before. Their faces follow the sun.
What an incredible idea. Sunflowers are bright, beautiful and cheery, absorbing and reflecting the color of the sun.
Made me think of a verse that the Lord has been speaking much over me in the season that I am in right now, “Those who look to Him are RADIANT. Their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:5
I pray that I will radiate and reflect the Son and His beauty as I move my face wherever He is shining!!
Love those sunflowers…
Flowers, Children and Promises
In a season of winter, our hearts crave hope–hope that a new season is just around the corner. That though weeping may last for a night, JOY will come in the morning. Signs of spring.
Here are a few things that God is using to remind me to hope….
Flowers…the seemingly impossible task of a shoot making it’s way through winter-hardened ground to grow and bloom–seemingly hopeless ground brings forth life….
Children…there’s something about a child that brings joy and hope that not all is as dark as it may seem…that faith is possible…
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt: 18:3
Promises…God’s promises make “spring” a surety. Here are just a few that have spoken to me recently:
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:5-7
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion;therefore I will wait for him.’” Lamentations 3:21-24
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23
The resurrection…Honestly, the best promise of spring we will ever have is that our Jesus who died on a Friday ROSE from the dead on a Sunday.
Spring came with His resurrected life, and it purchased for us a promise of a “spring” to come that will never, ever end. The new season will be one where “He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4) because “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:5.
Now that is SPRING!!
Me–a momentary atheist?
I was seeking the Lord for healing and redemption with some girls in my small group last night, and to start our time off, one of the girls read a quote from Randy Alcorn’s book about the goodness of God. It was so profound that I have been thinking about it ever since!
Worry is momentary atheism crying out for correction by trust in a good and sovereign God.
—Randy Alcorn, If God Is Good
Though I never thought of worry in such a severe way before, it rang true to my heart. When I worry (which has been true of me recently) I deny the reality of my good Father who intimately and lovingly attends to the needs of His children. I turn my back on Him, His works, and His faithfulness in my life, declaring a practical atheism that affects the way I think, feel and act. Incredible!
The Lord has been teaching me in a new way that “In His presence is fullness of joy!” (He’s been using this book “Strengthen Yourself in the Lord: How to Release the Hidden Power of God in Your Life” by Bill Johnson. So rich!! I highly recommend it! )
How do I get into His presence? One of the surest ways into His presence is to “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” Funny enough, it’s also the cure for momentary atheism! I have spent ALOT of time in worship and in thanksgiving recently, and guess what? Worry and fear–momentary atheism–melts away in His presence. It really does.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Join me! Confess and forsake momentary atheism and embrace the joy of His presence. Praise Him, recounting your blessings out loud to Him. Then..watch what He does with your heart and spirit. Amazing!!
The Heavens Shout…
I was looking through pictures from this last year of my travels and saw picture after picture of His heavens in all different stages–blue skies, dark and stormy skies, beautiful sunsets, amazing and colorful sunrises, stars, the moon, lightning, and colors (some of which I have no way to capture with my wimpy camera, unfortunately, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my back to have the “right kind” of camera to capture His heavens! :-). Just amazing.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Ps. 19:1-4.
He’s clear. The skies declare the glory of God. There is not an unreached people group on earth that doesn’t hear this loud declaration, as it is proclaimed in EVERY language!!
A couple of His heavenly shouts from this last year still ring loudly in my ears. One was sitting with my nieces in a Walmart parking lot in the middle of Wyoming, waiting for some of our family to return from the bowels of Walmart (those of you who have waited patiently for someone shopping in Walmart know what I mean! :-). There was an INCREDIBLE lightning storm in the distance. I pulled a couple nieces onto my lap and we watched in awe as we talked about the book of Job which says that every lightning bolt is sent on its way by God and checks in with him to say, “Here we are.” (Job 38:35).
Another loud shout was in Uganda at Lake Victoria when the dark storm raged in the early morning and again at New Hope on the night before I left as the thunder shook the foundations of the earth in the middle of the night (at least it sounded like it did). His raw POWER is amazing.
A third shout came over Labor Day weekend as I sat with a group of dear friends at my parents house around a fire in the evening and watched a “blue moon” (the second full moon in one lunar cycle) come up over the trees. Stunningly beautiful.
God is constantly shouting His glory in the heavens, but I have a heart that is not always tuned to his voice.
The thing that amazes me is that the God who shouts His raw and unmeasurable power in the heavens is the same God who values me–me personally. It’s so hard to put my mind (and more often my emotions) around, but it’s true–I am a loved daughter of the King who made the heavens. Even today, I’m facing some heart matters that seem difficult to trust Him with, but as I have been writing about the heavens, it again reminds me how easy it all is for my God. He’s big, and He loves me!!
“To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. Circumcise your hearts therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the LORD your God is God of gods and LORD of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome…Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” Deut. 10:14-17,20-21
I desire to respond to His shouts of glory from the heavens as a dearly loved daughter who delights and boasts in the strength and majesty of my Dad and believes and trusts Him for big things!
This last month, I went on vacation with my family–my WHOLE family–minus a couple members. We got in two vans with 15 people, 8 of them being children 11 and under, and headed west, covering thousands of miles. We traveled through the Wisconsin Dells and the badlands of North Dakota, saw wild animals, visited the amazing Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse, waded in a river, reveled in the beauty of Yellowstone and the majesty of the Grand Tetons, ate lots of ice cream, and experienced the wild, wild west during Frontier Days in Cheyenne, WY. As you can imagine, there were many grand adventures along the way, as we shared these amazing spots all together as a family.
There’s nothing like experiencing and thinking about God’s creation and gifts as seen through the eyes of children–the very thing He calls us to be in our faith. I had a special time with my nieces and nephews almost every night of the trip which we called, “God Rocks.” The kids picked up a rock every day, writing their name on it with their special colored marker, and each night we all shared our favorite thing that God had made or our favorite “gift” that He gave us from that day! After each child shared, they put their rock in a special jar, and we all celebrated their contribution by shouting together (or whispering loudly, depending on where we were! :-), God Rocks!!! We would finish each night with the reading of a grand missionary adventure story and a group hug and prayer over these precious children, asking God to pour out His love on them so that they will love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
Some of the “rocks” that were thrown in the jar were “stones of remembrance” for the toys that were purchased at Wall Drug Store :-), the feeding of the prairie dogs in North Dakota, the 5 or 6 rainbows we saw in the Grand Tetons, the fun time with cousins, the lightning storm watched with awe in Laramie, WY, the swimming at the water park, the hike through the badlands in 110 degree temperatures, the siting of an elk in the forest, and the experience of having bison come right near our windows. These and many other “rocks” were celebrated by our 8 kids as we proclaimed together that “God Rocks!”
I love the process that Psalm 145 describes, “One generation will declare His works to another. They will speak of his mighty acts and tell of the glorious splendor of His majesty.” What an honor to have the opportunity to bring my awe of Jesus into a realm that our kids in the next generation can grasp, giving them a at a young age of just a small portion of the personal nature I have feasted on in my 40 years. How I pray that they will personally “taste and see that the Lord is good and that His love endures forever!” I pray that for the next generation in your lives as well!!
Flash Beauty invades the Desert
The colors of God…
Have you ever thought about the COLOR that God has created? Whether it’s in a sunrise, a people group, flowers or dyes of fabrics, His beauty and color assaults the senses at every turn.
A group of 13 of us just returned from the first En Gedi Experience in Israel, and though I often think of this land as being full of deserts and rocks and conflict, together we experienced the truth of life and COLOR everywhere…vibrant, alive, and verdant beauty! It’s hard to capture the benefit of that color to the soul (or at least my soul! :-), but I felt like I tasted the full pallet of the beauty and diversity of God during our time in Israel. As we saw the many places where Jesus walked, studied His character and heart during our teaching times, and built relationship with a wonderful group of His people, we tasted of the nature of our Father!
It leads me to worship. I celebrate my Great God of beauty and color. Though I could (and will eventually) talk about the incredibly sweet community we had together as His people, I really want to share the color and beauty that was all around us, and there’s no better way to do that than through pictures. So, taste a bit of the feast that we were given by Him over the last couple weeks…
As I took in that visual feast and am now reflecting on it, I started thinking about daily life. The color in these pictures came from a trip to another land–a special land specifically chosen by God. It’s easy to think that the nature of God revealed through beauty and color in Israel is isolated to a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it’s His NATURE to create beauty and color. According to Ephesians 2, just like with Israel, He has chosen my place in life for me before the foundations of the world. As such, it also has to be full of beauty and color or it wouldn’t accurately reflect His nature. No matter how barren things may seem, I know that He has provided beauty and color, as that is who He is, so I just need eyes to SEE it! There seems to be more time and space to absorb special sights, sounds, tastes and scents on a trip than there is as I “run” through daily life. I wonder if it makes Him sad, as He has created things for our enjoyment, and I often don’t have the time or eyes to see it.
I’m praying today that He “opens the eyes of my heart” to see Him–that I will “be still and know that He is God”–to see all the beauty and the color that He has created in my every day life–a cup of tea, spring trees, an airport lounge (today!! :-)), dear friends, a redeemed heart, a committed family, clean water, and many other things that I may not see as they are “normal.” Oh, that I will SEE Him and worship, thanking Him for the many good gifts He puts right in front of me, as He promises that when I see Him I will become like Him. I pray that for both you and for me today–to see Him, to worship and to become like Him–full of color and beauty, the WOW! kind of beauty and color that we saw in Israel.