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A Divine Tale…

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Once upon a time there were two women…two countries…and one BIG God…
 
Michelle (middle top) came into my life through my friend Celeste (left top). Michelle was hungry to see more of God, as is Celeste.  So, four of us started meeting together, seeking God for things He alone can do–healing and transformation.

On a Thursday morning last November we witnessed firsthand the redemptive nature and power of our Jesus as we heard Michelle’s story…

Michelle had been a practicing New Age Medium for years.  As she rose higher and higher in the New Age movement, she started channeling spirits and sharing that channeling with others.  She was studying one of the “spirits” on the internet when she saw the word “demon” and “demonic” in association with that spirit.  She thought her work in the New Age was her service to God, so the fact that her activities had any association with the demonic was a complete surprise and shock to her.

In September 2018, in the midst of her confusion and questioning, she bought a Bible with the intent of proving false what she had just read about New Age and the demonic.  She studied, read, researched and prayed, trying to prove that New Age was really of God,  In the midst of her Bible search, she met Jesus, changing everything for her.  Though no person was there to teach her or lead her to Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God were her teachers. Michelle KNOWS Jesus in ways that many people don’t know Him after a lifetime of discipleship and teaching.  I was blown away by her wisdom, maturity and knowledge of our Jesus.  Her Bible was one of the most well-worn Bibles I have ever seen.

As a New Age Medium, Michelle had an international following of about 150 people, and she began sharing what she was learning from the Bible with these followers. Thirty of these people decided to become followers of Jesus as well.  It sounded like New Testament times!!  

One of theses “followers” was Mateja (bottom right) from Ljubijana, Slovenia.  Just like Michelle, Mateja wanted to be discipled and learn more of Jesus. As Michelle shared this with us, I thought of my dear friends Josh and Kristi Patty (bottom left) who serve with Josiah Venture in Ljubljana.

We contacted Josh and Kristi, and it turned out that they lived 15 minutes away from Mateja!  Mateja only knows 1 person in South Africa.  Josh and Kristi only know 2 people in South Africa, but God’s amazing plan was to connect them through  South Africa, and they are all experiencing the incredible joy of God’s power and a kingdom work as they meet together.

The things that Mateja and Michelle are learning are being passed on to the others that have come to Jesus out of the New Age Movement–some in South Africa, some in Slovenia, and some in places all over the world, types of people that would never have a chance to meet or share Jesus with.  

God’s stories, His plans, His connections and His ways are just AMAZING…How I love Him and His incredible “Divine Tale.”

Dealers of Hope…

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Returning home after Christmas, the desperate condition of South Africa hit us all over again–no electricity hours a day, corruption at the highest levels of government, incompetency in state owned enterprises, a suffering economy, and crime, just for a start.That was even before we add in the Corona virus

For me personally, the beginning of the year has held significant health challenges, relational challenges, business challenges, and other challenges of life. Many different things that, if I let them, can cause fear, hopelessness and despair

In it all, Jesus keeps repeating to me,  “I HAVE NOT given you a spirit of fear, but a Spirit of power, love and a sound mind.” II Tim. 1:7

He has called me to be a “dealer of hope.”  Fear comes from my flesh, the enemy or the world, but NEVER from my Father, the King who reigns and rules over ALL things.  Whether it’s fear of a virus, fear for kids, fear with safety, fear in health, fear with finances…it NEVER comes from Him.  God’s currency is faith, never fear.  

Fear, though sometimes obvious, is at other times disguised.  I find my self using “nice” words like: “being concerned,” “using wisdom,”  “worrying just a little,” “wanting the best,” “being safe,” or “being prudent.”  Jesus is rooting these disguised fears out of me, one by one, replacing them with His peace.  

His peace is a clear measures of my base of operation–fear or faith.  Fear never brings peace, but trusting in the Prince of PEACE and His leading always does.  

I also am asking for greater understanding of His love these days, as “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  I John 4:18

One of the exercises that we did at our women’s Bible study in January was to read outloud together every verse in the Bible on hope.  I have included it here for those of you who need encouragement like we do.  “Our hope is built on Nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.  I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name.  On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

In the midst of all that is happening in our world these days, I pray that we who know Jesus will be “dealers of hope,” grounded in His word and presence, coming with a spirit of Power, Love and a Sound Mind, even when the world all around me is freaking out!

From Dry Bones to an Army

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South Africa–a place of incredible beauty, wildness, adventure, and challenges.  From animals, to terrain, to core racial/ethnic groups, to history, to politics, South Africa has more diversity in a relatively small land space than any other country I know.

Corruption and violence have plagued the top levels of leadership in this country for a number of years, bringing destruction and devastation of every kind imaginable.  With a national election coming on May 8th, South Africa is at a crisis point.  We need a miraculous intervention by our GREAT God.  

NOTHING is impossible with Him.

Will you stand with us and pray for a kingdom miracle on May 8th?  We need the power of the united body of Christ.

In 2013 God called me to pray and prophesy Ezekiel 37:1-14 over this nation.  I believe this is the heart of God for South Africa, and I continue to prophesy and pray, along with many others, for the “vast army” of the kingdom to arise in this beautiful land.

Pray with us that for the May 8th elections that “Those who oppose the LORD will be broken.  The Most High will thunder from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.  He will give strength to His King and exalt the horn of His anointed.”  (I Sam. 2:1)

The name of Jesus has the power to change things–ANYTHING.  He is…The KING!

“All Hail King Jesus…”,

Introducing En Gedi Blessing

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En Gedi Blessing is about gifts…gifts of rest, renewal, celebration, creativity, intercession, gratefulness, and renewed relationships.

Friends of En Gedi have been blessed with beautiful vacation homes, and their desire is to use these spaces to bless a unique group–ministry leaders and their executive teams.

Loneliness, challenges and exhaustion often accompany a position of leadership….A leader who is refreshed and renewed by the Lord naturally overflows in refreshment and encouragement for others….

En Gedi blessing is intended to be a blessing that flows in all directions. As you spend time in these beautiful spaces, surrounded by the care of the special families who own these homes, our desire is for you to bless them with your priestly intercession–for them, their families, and their places of service, asking for more kingdom fruitfulness in every area of their lives…

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My Secret Garden

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The Secret Garden–a beautiful story.  I also love the song “I come to the Garden alone while the dew is still on the roses…He walks with me and He talks with me.  He tells me I am His own….”  It was one of my Grandpa Doden’s favorites.

Every morning as I sit in my chair with tea and chocolate with Jesus, I sit looking out into my “secret garden.”  Jesus gave me my own “secret garden” here in Joburg…right outside my door–literally.

Though it might seem insignificant to some, to me it is love.  My Father knows what ministers to and refreshes my soul, and He gave me a unexpected, lavish gift in this new world where He has put me, knowing that it would bring life to my soul.

“I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also.”  There’s something so amazing about the character of God in that phrase.  He’s intentional and personal in preparing a home for us, knowing us intimately…caring about the details of where He will bring us to live with Him forever.

Though Jesus was talking about heavenly homes with those words, I think He was also expressing the nature of our Father God.  Our Father prepares intimately and provides abundantly in the places where He puts us–South Africa included.

Pictures of His provision in my new world:

From a beautiful, gifted hairstylist…to my favorite and only perfume (which I have never seen in any other country)…to some wonderful new friends…to a car…to an incredible host family…to a secret garden–all gifts from my Father’s hand.  Sometimes the small gifts mean even more than the big ones because it shows that He really KNOWS me…intimately.

“My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  He provides according to His “riches” and not His “discount coupon book”–how I love that!!”  Each and every need of my heart is met lavishly–those spoken, those unspoken, and even those unknown to me…but known fully by Him.

My Secret Garden–“the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

Go with Joy…

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A couple months ago, I had an accident in my little Honda Element.  I ran into someone from behind.  It’s the first accident that I have ever had where I was driving.  Some might find that hard to believe, given my enthusiastic nature, but it’s TRUE!!

Even though it was just a little fender bender, my Element, which has been dubbed my Box of Joy due to my “BxofJoy” license plate, had to go into the shop for extensive and expensive repairs.

The day I was going to go and pick it up, I was driving a rental car (which was so NOT my “bxofjoy” in any way!), and I stayed in the parking lot for a bit to finish a conversation with a dear friend on the phone.  As we said goodbye, she prayed for me that I would “go with joy” which was very needed.

As I walked into Enterprise Rental, I ran into a woman from church that I hadn’t seen for months. We were going in the same direction so they put us in the same shuttle to pick up our cars.  As we were riding together, it suddenly struck me that her name is JOY.  I was riding with Joy while I was on my way to pick up my Box of Joy.  I started laughing out loud.  I mean, what are the chances…really??

The Lord seemed to put an exclamation on His message to me that day:  “GO with JOY!  I mean it!”

How I love His sense of humor…when I have eyes to see it.

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”  Is 55:12

“…The Joy of the Lord is my strength!”  Nehemiah 8:10

 

The Death of Heroes…Elizabeth Elliot

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Elizabeth Elliot…I never met her, but she deeply impacted my life and slowly became one of my heroes.

I started reading her books while in the Philippines  on a Teen Missions trip in high school–Passion and Purity was my first read.  I then moved on to In the Shadow of the Almighty and These Strange Ashes, among others, in college and throughout my 20’s.  These books marked me.

I have a shelf of books that are worth rereading no matter what season of life I am in… books that have touched me deeply once, and most likely will do so again with a re-reading.  Several books on that shelf are written by Elizabeth Elliot.

She went home to be with Jesus last week.  Her passionate pursuit of Jesus and her unwavering faith were and still will be a source of life, nourishment and encouragement in my own journey.  She walked His mysteries of  suffering, grief, work that went up in flames for seemingly no purpose and unfulfilled longings and desires, and yet she stood firm…in faith, in hope and in love of Christ.

She’s a hero of faith for me.  Heroes are rare, and I celebrate her life, as I know our Father does too.  She finished well…fighting the fight and keeping the faith.

Elizabeth Elliot is human, just like the rest of us, so, though I didn’t get to see them firsthand, I’m sure there were areas of failure and weakness in her.  We all have them.  Even with those, she showed me parts of Jesus and His character as she journeyed.

I desire, in and through my own weaknesses, to reflect the same Jesus that lived and breathed in Elizabeth Elliot!

The “lost coin” and love…

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When someone knows those “little things” about me–little habits, details, or concerns that matter to me alone–I realize that I am known and LOVED.

I had something happen recently that reminded me once again that no one engages in the details of my life and cares more than Jesus does….

In March I was having a wonderful week in Indiana as I spent time with dear friends and family in different venues while hosting someone who was visiting from out of town.  During the course of the week, one evening I was wearing a favorite pair of earrings which I bought in India.  (I love to pick up unique jewelry in the different countries where I am traveling as it is both fun and small–important when I have to haul luggage all over the world!)

As I was dropping my visitor off on my way home, I reached up to touch my ear and realized that one of my earrings was missing.  Ugh!!  One of my favorite earrings!  I was a little sick about it, knowing that those earrings could never be replaced without a flight to India.  I called the three places that I had been that evening.  Nothing….

Since Jesus and I talk about everything, I started telling him about my earring and how sad I was about it (as if He didn’t already know!  :-), and I asked Him for a miracle in finding it, knowing that we had already looked in all the logical places where it could possibly be.

Over a week later, I moved a case in my closet and would you believe, THERE was my earring.  I have absolutely no idea how it came to be in that spot, as it was missing long before I even returned to my room/closet the night I lost it.  Personally I wonder if the Lord sent an angel on a special mission of search and rescue, telling him where to drop it off.  Regardless of how He did it, it was there, and I started doing a little worship dance right there in my closet.

It wasn’t as much about my earring at that point as it was about my God who loves me, hears me and knew how important a silly little earring from India was to one little girl from Indiana.  I was like the woman with the lost coin…I wanted to call all of my friends and throw a party.

My party had a theme: “My God knows me and loves me intimately.”

A child, a movie and Living Water…

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It’s so amazing to me how the Lord knows exactly what we need, even when we don’t know ourselves, and our Jehovah Jireh provides before we even know to ask!

That’s what happened to me this last weekend….

I was coming off of 6 weeks of travel and spiritual battles in a space of 2 months, and I was home for the first weekend since mid-April and TIRED.  I wanted to do mindless things to find some rest, but I had missed our annual birthday slumber parties for my nieces and nephews which we do every year in pairs to celebrate their birthdays!  So, I had my 8 year olds for  a slumber party that Friday night.  About 2 hours into the slumber party, my nephew Rylan asks, “Aunt Laurie, can we watch the Jesus movie–the part about the crucifixion?  I really want to see that.”

 

 

 There was a history to that request, as last summer on our annual family vacation where our entire Doden clan gets together for the week, I read a missionary story to my 8 nieces and nephews each night and showed them a segment of the Matthew videos, which they all loved.  Rylan was completely fascinated with the movies and especially wanted to see the crucifixion.  He actually skipped swimming and playing one morning so he could watch that part of the “Jesus” movie.  I love his tender heart.  I tell him all the time that he’s my “tough guy (he’s ALL boy!) with a sweet heart.”

So, back to the slumber party….  I had promised them we could also watch some “I Love Lucy” episodes with some popcorn, which my niece really wanted to do, so we flipped for which one would happen on Friday night and which one would happen on Saturday morning.  Chloe won the flip, so the “Jesus” movie would happen on Saturday morning.

I can’t begin to tell you how the Lord ministered to my heart and soul as I sat with these two precious children, full of child-like faith, with the sun streaming in my windows, watching Jesus give His life for me and call me to follow Him all over again.

Oh, how I need reminders of His love, sacrifice and call on my life, especially when I am battle weary.  He reminded me so clearly that I don’t need “mindless” things to bring vitality and life to me, but I need to “come unto me all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.”

I’m so thankful for a child’s request, a movie and a dose of Living Water!!

 

The colors of God…

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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.