God’s Nature to Bless

What a day!

What is God doing?!

Amazing me.  That’s what He’s doing.

I got up a little slower and later than usual today. My husband and I had an impromptu babysitting request the night before to watch our 7-month-old twin grandchildren.  Who could pass that up?  It was so fun to be with them, and I was up much later than usual. So, this morning, I didn’t get up before dawn—as is my habit—to read the Bible and pray. Rather, I got up after dawn, enjoyed a cup of coffee and quietly rested in His presence.

I wasn’t too excited about getting ready for church (fyi… those are the days that you really need to go).  I needed to go early for dance practice, and stay late for dance practice again, and attend a shofar class.

Shofar?  Yes. You know. Those long twisting rams’ horns that strange people blow like trumpets for who knows why. (Just kidding.  I do know why, but maybe you don’t, and therefore it’s strange to you.)

A couple weeks ago, the head shofar blower invited me to a class that he would be teaching about blowing shofars.  Why would I go?  Well, he encouraged me to come, so I thought I’d pray and consider it.

Praying about the class, I received no direct yes or no answer. So, I began to reason in my head. I’m so busy. Do I want to blow the shofar? I need to focus on what the Lord has called me to do, and that’s dancing. Choreography is so time consuming and I hardly have time for that. Why would I add another thing to my list of things? There are many things that I’d like to learn and do, but I’ve got to focus on the call on my life. Hmm. Doesn’t sound like I should go. 

BUT…

This shofar blower has taken time to learn to dance and has joined in our group dances. It wouldn’t hurt to learn about it. At least then, I’d know enough to be able to tell others about it even if I don’t end up blowing the shofar. I did play the trumpet in high school. God didn’t say no.

Sometimes, God doesn’t give direct answers. Rather, He holds things out to us and lets us decide for ourselves. He enjoys watching our response… and dare I say, our reasoning.

During my high school days, I not only played the trumpet, but was also on the marching band flag team.  It was a flag team reminder from the Lord that gave me the courage to start waving flags in church several years ago. It was the waving of the flags that eased me into dancing for the Lord in church, which is what He’d called me to do a couple decades ago.  As I think about things, it was also always my desire to be part of the swing choir—the high school group that danced. However, I never got that opportunity. I was taller than all the boys back then, and I was one of very few who could play piano. I always got stuck playing the piano for the team that danced.

Back to today. Dragging my feet, I headed to the shower with my phone for some music. A few songs by Kari Jobe played. No offense to her or any of her fans, but she’s not my favorite. However, the songs that played actually kind of fit my melancholy attitude and they even began to lift my spirits. So, on I went, a little more enthusiastic about the day.

To describe the celebration (what we call our church service) would take too long. Let me just say that we have been humbly and fervently seeking God’s deeper presence. Today, through words of encouragement, worship dance, prophetic art, a message about the season we are in on God’s calendar, reflective time in His presence, talk of upcoming events, and dance practice, it was a wonderful day. That would have been plenty.

The shofar class began with about a dozen people or more—a good number for our small but growing congregation. The blowing of the shofar is extremely meaningful, holy, and powerful. It’s not for everyone! But there is a stirring within me, and I am surprised at some of the thoughts and inspirations going through my head.

I’m excited to read through the handouts and see where all this leads. As I doubted whether I am one to blow the shofar, Holy Spirit reminded me of a dream from several years back.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014, dream. I drove to the mailbox to pick up mail. I pulled up just past the boxes. As I stopped, got out and went to the boxes, another vehicle pulled in front and around me, parking in the opposite direction. It was three people from my church. They smiled and waved but stayed inside their parked vehicle. I wondered if they were waiting to talk with me or if they had recently moved and were also going to pick up mail. There was a fresh layer of snow on top of the already frozen snow, on top of and around the mailboxes. I saw a pair of keys on a key ring that were stuck frozen on the side of the mailbox kiosk. Wondering if my husband had left them there, I pulled them out. There were also boxes and packages on top of the kiosk. I wondered if someone had forgotten them there. When I opened the mailbox, it was full of packages. As I pulled a few out, I found two more separate keys in the mailbox indicating additional packages in the larger overflow mailbox. I was putting the packages into a pile as I pulled them out and realized that I would need to take this stack to my car and come back for the rest.

Through this dream, God was showing me His desire to lavish His children with gifts. While the dream took place during winter (a dormant season of life), it is God’s joy to give these gifts (already mine/yours) for future seasons. In His timing, He delights to open them up before us and surprise us. I love that this dream was also recorded on the first day of a new year. Do you know that We are nearing the first day of the new year on God’s Hebraic calendar? That day, Rosh HaShana, begins one week from today. It also coincides with the Feast of Trumpets, or the blowing of shofars.

Yes, God often has a specific call or anointing on our lives. That’s where I allowed myself to get stuck. I have heard this saying, “Do what you’re called to do.”  Yes, that’s good.  Also, “Stay in your lane.”  Your ministry might be hindered if you expand into too many areas.  Yes, that can be true.  However, through the dream and through this crazy season that we are in, God is showing me that he has many gifts that we can take from—many of which will enhance the call He’s given us.

This is another good saying, “Don’t get stuck in a rut.”  God is incredibly creative and loving.  He delights in our discoveries and the using our talents to bless Him and others with.  He’s a good, good, Father.

So, I was blessed by the class and wonder where God might lead me with this new information. I’ll take one day and a time as He unwraps His gifts in front of, and for me.

I gathered my belongings and got in my car to head home. And what was the song that came on when I started my car? “Your Nature” by…. you guessed it, Kari Jobe. I am moved at how much this song speaks of my life. Maybe it speaks of yours as well.

Are you in a dormant season? Wondering what God has for you next—if anything? He is good to all. Keep seeking Him and He will open up the heavens for you. He is so, so good.

 

“Your Nature” Lyrics
https://youtu.be/tmNN4A9rjqQ   

You bring life to the barren places
Light to the darkest spaces
God, it’s Your nature
You bring joy to the broken hearted
Hope to the ones who’ve lost it
God, it’s Your nature

There is no desert that Your streams can’t run to
There are no ruins that Your love won’t make new
You tell the wasteland
That it will bloom again
Cause it’s Your nature

You will restore the years that shame has stolen
You keep the promises that You have spoken
I know this wasteland will be whole again
Cause it’s Your nature

You bring peace
To the war inside us
Speak and all fear is silenced
God, it’s Your nature
You bring joy to the broken hearted
Hope to the ones who’ve lost it
God, it’s Your nature

There is no desert that Your streams can’t run to
There are no ruins that Your love won’t make new
You tell the wasteland
That it will bloom again
Cause it’s Your nature

You will restore the years that shame has stolen
You keep the promises that You have spoken
I know this wasteland will be whole again
Cause it’s Your nature

Sing out o barren woman
Sing out o broken man
Stretch out your hands believing this is your promise land
Break out of disappointment
Break out of hopelessness
Stretch out your hands believing this is your promise land

 

Made To Be Free

Happy Independence Day! Like many of you, my family celebrates this holiday with a cook-out and fireworks.  But do any of us take time to truly remember why we celebrate? I was asked to briefly speak at church about our country’s founding and independence.  I didn’t know where to start, so I asked the Lord, “What do you want me to say?”  He said, “Tell them I’ve always wanted them to be free.”

Well, this got me to thinking. Adam and Eve were God’s final touch and glory of creation.  He prepared everything beforehand, creating a beautiful, lush and perfect garden for them.  Their job was to care for it, enjoy it, and share their experience with Him through divine friendship.  They were free to live a very abundant life.

You know the story.  God gave them access to everything in the garden but told them not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve was deceived by the serpent that tempted her to take and eat the fruit anyway.  Adam went along with her choice. Sin and its curse entered their lives and all future generations.  As a result of sin people became self-serving.  God desired that His children live in peace and harmony with each other.  Now, there was division, strife and competition for control and dominion; not just over the creatures of the earth, but also over each other.  Rather than having freedom, people were bound-up in sin.

I thought of the generations and predictable patterns that followed. When the people were selfish, they turned away from God and to their own ways.  They ultimately enslaved themselves.  When they repented and returned to God, He had compassion on them and set them free.

People multiplied on the earth until nearly everyone acted only with violence and wickedness (Genesis 6).  God sent a flood to wipe out all that He had made except for Noah, the only righteous man, and his immediate family.  God offered new freedom to Noah and his family and told them to be fruitful and multiply.  While God considered Noah to be righteous, he was still imperfect, with imperfect children. Following the flood, evil actions increased again, especially through the line of Noah’s son Ham.

Then we have Abraham who was another one that wholeheartedly sought God.  God brought him out and away from his family to increase and bless him.  That sounds like an opportunity for freedom to me! Genesis 12:3 says that all the people of the world would be blessed through Abraham.

Isaac, Jacob and Joseph followed. Many people, through their selfishness and wickedness, tried to destroy Joseph.  However, God protected him. Through God’s and Pharaoh’s favor upon Joseph, many were set free from death due to a devastating seven-year drought.

Over the course of time, God’s people fell back into slavery under a different Pharaoh of Egypt for hundreds of years. God brought freedom once again through Moses’ leadership.  Moses continually approached Pharaoh for their release. Each time Pharaoh refused to release them, God sent a plague upon the Egyptians as punishment. Pharaoh finally relented after the tenth plague, and the people were freed.

Following Moses, the people asked to be ruled by a king. In this way, they would know and follow the Lord.  So the Lord gave them kings.  In their humanity, the kings increasingly became power-hungry and self-exalting.  The people were again under a slavery of their own making.

God also used women to set his people free.  There was Deborah and Jael; two very different but strong women written about in Judges 4-5.  Again, because of the sins of the people, they had come under bondage and were harshly oppressed by the king of Canaan. When they turned back to cry out to the Lord, He used Deborah and Jael to free them.

Esther was a trustworthy and honorable young woman who was obedient to her uncle and to God. She was placed in position as a queen and God gave her great favor with the king.  She bravely exposed an evil plot meant to destroy her people.  Her actions brought about freedom to the Jewish people in her time.

Eventually, under the rule of the Roman Empire, God sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to save them and set them free once and for all.  Although a perfect man, He took the sin and sickness of all humanity upon Himself as He was beaten and hung upon a cross.  Recognizing Him as their Savior, many threw off the yoke of Rome and religious bondage and were truly set free.

As the gospel message of Jesus Christ spread throughout the world, many believed incorrect or incomplete doctrines.  They again came under the bondage of religion and man-made rules.

Let’s fast-forward to the early 1600’s.  In England was a man named William Brewster who poured his time into studying scripture. He recognized the burden that false doctrine and religion had upon the people of England. He began to exercise his freedom in Christ and led others to discover and do the same. The king of England was not happy about this small group of people who were turning others away from his state-run religion, and persecution began.

Brewster and his group stood firmly on the word of God and against the king’s control.  Under heavy persecution, Brewster’s group fled to Amsterdam in the Netherlands in search of freedom to live and worship God.  The people began to assimilate into popular culture (we all like to fit in, don’t we). Brewster recognized the dangers that assimilation posed to their faith and their families.  Looking for a fresh start away from worldly influence, the group fled again to another place.  That place was America.

The king of England continued to exercise control over these people and the many others who went to America.  He increasingly taxed supplies that were shipped to the colonies, cut off trade, made new laws to place upon the people, and sent troops to monitor and control behaviors.

The American people finally had had enough. When the king refused to let a shipment of tea return to England—rejected by the Americans due to the high tax levied upon it—the people decided to throw a tea party.  It was time again to throw off a yoke of slavery that had snuck in through government control.  The tea was thrown from the ship into the water and this event became known as the Boston Tea Party.  These brave people had traveled to America for the freedom it offered, and they would fight to maintain that freedom.

The American people united together to draft a declaration.  The Declaration of Independence, from the tyranny of the king of England, was finalized and established in Congress on July 4, 1776. Read some excerpts from it’s text.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and institute new Government…

…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, …evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…

…these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved…

So, help us God!  He has always wanted us to be free. His ways promote healthy freedom, joy and life.  Sin’s ways lead to destruction and death.

As we celebrate the 246th year since the signing of our declaration, it is good to remember what happened to bring us to the point of declaring freedom from tyranny.  Take time today to read the declaration and see how we are doing at maintaining our freedom.  It is still up to “we, the people,” to choose and fight for freedom. Pray for our country. Let’s act in ways that promote healthy freedom.  God made us to be free.

Free to Dance

On this cool day following a late spring snowstorm, I sip a warm cup of tea and recall the many churches that I have attended throughout my life. My memory is absent of any instance of praise and worship dance during a service (excluding my current church). About half of the churches encouraged worshippers to raise their hands in praise, and those same ones had no problem with a little side-stepping or even jumping a bit to praise the Lord as we joyfully sang… but dance? No.

I ponder my conservative background and former lack of knowledge regarding what the Bible has to say on the subject. Someone expressing praise through dance would definitely have been an inappropriate action.  I likely would have questioned such a person’s sanity. That’s how those around me would likely have reacted as well.

OK, and what about a choreographed dance? Nothing enters my mind… a children’s skit, or a well-practiced song by a choir or soloist, yes, but not a dance. Even while attending church at the time I received a prophetic song (see “Called to Dance” blog), there was heart-felt praise, and swaying to the music, but I do not remember seeing anyone freely dancing.

As I was reading from the book of Jeremiah today, the words “I will restore” caught my attention. To need something restored means that it was previously lost, stolen, removed, or destroyed. In the book of Jeremiah, the Israelites lost their God-given blessings because they rejected obedience to the Lord.  Instead of following their true God, they worshipped other gods from other cultures and of their own making.

We are no different. All of us have often chosen our own ways over God’s ways. It’s too hard, or too time consuming, to seek this God who seems so distant and non-communicative. But is that the truth? He tells us that He is never far from us (Acts 17:27). The truth is, we are often too focused on the physical attributes of life.  We like to worship that which we can see, feel, smell, taste, and touch. The fullness of life however cannot be achieved without recognizing the attributes of our spiritual origination from God. It may be easier to live by our natural physical experiences than to take the time to learn to live a supernatural spirit-led life, but a spirit-led life is a much more exciting and fulfilling one.

Whether we are led astray from God by our own desires (James 1:14) or deceived by satan’s lies (John 8:44), God remains faithful and loving toward us.  Throughout His word He promises restoration if we will turn back to Him. Many of us do not even know what has been taken from us because we do not know the Word and what is ours to begin with. Rather than finding restoration, peace, blessing, and new vision, we strive harder and faster.  We seek to obtain our own personal successes and end up with great stress. Yet, the Lord tells us not to strive or worry. In this physical world, we all strive, worry, and stress, unless our lives are grounded in Him and His Word.

So, back to the words “I will restore.” One of the things He is restoring is dance. Somewhere along the line of time, many churches rejected dance. The enemy stole purity from dance.  The church bought the lie that dance was—or at least led to—evil.  Therefore it must not be given any place in the church. God’s people must always be reverent and full of fear. This mind-set lacks a full understanding of who God is. Do not misunderstand me—none of us is able to fully understand God, but besides being holy and all-powerful, He is also loving, gracious and merciful.

I will forever remember the first time I saw someone break out in dance, rejoicing and praising the Lord. In the early days of attending my current church, something outlandish happened. As I stood near the back, singing the lyrics to the worship song, this older woman took off skipping and dancing.  Her arms and hands were raised high as she moved up the isle, around the section of seating, and back to her place. I was stunned and surprised at her boldness to do such a thing in front of other people!

Even though I’d already received my word about dancing for the Lord, I could not imagine myself ever doing such an act as she did. (By the way, we are now very good friends.) In my lack of understanding and self-consciousness, I had previously resolved that my dancing for the Lord was something I would do only before Him.  I certainly would not dance in front of other people. Oh, but what the Lord knows that we don’t!

God took me on such a journey over the next decade of learning about—and experiencing—His great love for me. I learned to trust Him and grew in knowledge of His word about dance.  With great apprehension I began to step out—in front of other people—to wave a flag, walk across the front, and eventually dance with all my might. God was setting me free to dance.

Praise to God, many among His people never stopped dancing for Him. As you read His word, you will discover that He always has a remnant of people who have not turned away from Him. In Jewish and Messianic culture, many have kept dance to express joy and worship to God. One such Messianic woman found her way to the church I attend, bringing her gift of group dancing. She choreographs and leads group dances with a Messianic flair for the men and women at our church. It has been a joy for me to grow even more through God’s gift of dance in her.

I personally love to worship the Lord with spontaneous flag dances. Whether in a church service or at home alone, the Holy Spirit often gives me impressions as to which flags to use and how to dance. Group dances led by my friend has expanded the church’s dance team to include others who prefer established steps without the use of flags. Our flag and dance teams have grown from a very few to many, and it is a joy to see.

Something really special happens when people are free to dance. It is a beautiful expression of rejoicing and praise to God. Psalm 22:3 says that the Lord inhabits, or is enthroned, on the praises of His people. Psalm 149:3-4 says that the Lord delights in His people when they praise Him with dancing and music. Dance glorifies God and brings a manifestation of His presence. May we grow to know Him more and be free to dance.

Renewed Focus

Happy New Year! During the last few days, I have been taking time to reflect on accomplishments and challenges of the past year. I have also been considering what the Lord might have me do moving forward.  It’s a time of developing fresh hopes for the new year.

God’s plans for us are to give us a hope and a future. How do we effectively partner with Him to assure that these hopes and plans will come to fruition in our lives? Do our personal hopes line up with what God wants for us? How can we even know God’s plans for us?

Maybe it’s time for renewed focus.

What does that mean?

“Delight yourself in ADONAI, and He will give you the requests of your heart.
Commit your way to ADONAI. Trust in Him, and He will do it.”
Psalm 37:4-5 (TLV)

Where was your focus in the past year? Did you delight in the Lord? Commit your way to Him? Trust in Him? Or, was it a year of seeking your own desires while hoping He’d bless the way that you chose?

As I follow Christ, my vision and understanding of Him and His word continually becomes clearer. I realize with greater clarity that He really is the lover of my soul, the One who knew me before one of my days came to be (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:16), the One who planned good things for me to do (Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 2:10), and the One who gives good and perfect gifts (James 1:17). There is no darkness—spiritual or moral sin or depravity—in Him (1 John 1:5). He is good (Luke 18:19), and He is good to us (Psalm 31:19).

If this God knows so much about us—indeed, planned and created us—why would we not delight ourselves in Him, commit to Him, and trust Him? He will give us the requests of our hearts!

We easily get off track from seeking Him; not because we are so busy being holy, but rather because we are busy with the world that constantly screams and flashes for attention, or sneaks in subtly distracting us. We need to intentionally refocus using His word which is good for teaching, correcting our course, and training so that we may be capable and equipped (2 Timothy 3:16).

Ok… so what does renewing our focus look like? Let me offer one example.

I was recently asked to share a Christmas-themed dance at my church. I love to praise and worship the Lord with dance, but choreographing a specific dance is quite different than free-style dance. I’ve learned through experience to always seek the Lord before giving an answer. His answer is usually “yes”, but by always seeking Him, He saves me from possible disaster if in a certain circumstance He might have me say “no”.

After getting His approval and a song, I worked on being creative. Reaching frustration and weariness, I thought, “I don’t know what to do—I can’t do this!” I was right. I couldn’t do a good job of choreographing this dance, for His glory, without Him. I re-focused and asked Him to show me how to dance. As I slept during the next few nights, the music played over and over in my mind while He showed me what to do. I was amazed! He graciously and easily equipped me because I sought Him instead of trying to continue on my own.

In this new year, I encourage you to refocus by seeking Him first. If He hasn’t been your first love, work towards changing that. Make Him first in your life; first in your mind; first in your day. Talk to Him. Listen for Him. Read His word—I promise it gets easier (and more interesting) with repetition. The Bible can be difficult to comprehend, but dedication and repetition—in anything—increases knowledge and understanding. Take the time to gain knowledge and understanding of His love, and revelation of His will for you and your life.

But you don’t understand! I’ve got a really busy life!

But I do understand. There are seasons of life when responsibilities and activities push the limits of time; such as launching businesses, raising children, caring for family members in need, getting caught with schedule-overload from saying yes to too many activities. There is opportunity, even during busy times, to seek God for direction, even if only in very small increments.

Instead of having the pleasure of hours in a “prayer closet” (which I highly recommend and encourage), maybe it’s five minutes with Him before you open your eyes to get out of bed. Maybe the car radio is the distraction keeping you from achieving time with Him. Turn it off and pray (or listen). My personal favorite while raising children—30 free seconds (60 if I was lucky) in the bathroom before someone yelled, “MOM!” And on those days when you have nothing left to give or seek Him with, remember that He has told you that He is always with you (Isaiah 41:10, Matthew 28:20). Rest in Him. He knows and understands. Tomorrow will be a new day.

How much has social media, the news, or even chasing after multitudes of prophetic words tangibly change your life in a positive way this past year? How many good and perfect gifts did you miss out on because your focus was misplaced? How many relationships (spouse, children, neighbors, even strangers) suffered because you were too busy or preoccupied with things that do not last more than a moment, a day, or a week? If you didn’t grow closer to Jesus this past year, look for something to lay aside; to let go of.

With the Lord, relationships come first. He created you for relationship with Himself and others (Genesis 1:26-31, Genesis 2:18, John 3:16, John 17:3, 20-24). Seek to maintain the good relationships He’s given you. Add more only when time allows (yes, it is possible to have too many friends). You never know when He will place you in someone’s path to speak hope and life into them. He may want to answer one of your prayers through relationship with another person and the wisdom that they might impart to you.

Take a moment to reflect on the beginning of God’s creation. After God formed Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation, He rested. They rested. Before Adam and Eve worked the garden, they rested. They rested in the relationship of their Creator and Father. What might we be missing out on by not resting in relationship to and with our Creator and Father, and even our closest family and friends? Would He ask you to rest more—to be still and know that He is God—in this new year?

In addition to rest and relationships, God has given each of us skills, gifts, and talents specifically suited so that our lives are fruitful and fulfilling. We use our skills, gifts, and talents for provision, personal fulfillment, ministry, and relationships.

He also calls us to specific works or ministries to bless others and bring glory and honor to Him. His call for your life may be your vocation. It could also be a surprising thing—something that you never considered doing before, that may feel way out of your talent range—but also something that He has known and planned all along for you. It is something that He offers to you when He knows you are ready, or at least ready and willing to learn and grow.

As a fairly new mother, I was led to homeschool my children. I had been in the business world and had not thought about teaching.  One day a book about homeschooling caught my eye as I was passing through the library.  I’d never heard of such a thing.  My curiosity piqued, I checked it out and read it.  Fascinated by the concept and the ability to manage my children’s education and activities, I poured myself into more research. Within a year or so, I was a teacher to my children (wasn’t I already?), and eventually ended up teaching music classes in homeschool co-ops.  It was a very personally fulfilling time.

Even before my homeschooling adventure, through a prophetic psalmist, the Lord spoke to me about dance. This was totally out of my comfort zone and I had no idea what this was going to look like.  Sure enough, by the time my homeschooling season came to an end, opportunities to learn and grow in worship dance opened up.  It is something that I now thoroughly enjoy, and something that the Lord had planned from before my beginning.

Have you discovered His call for your life? If not, search it out from Him. He hears your prayers (Psalm 116:1, 1 Peter 3:12, 1 John 5:14). He answers prayers (Mark 11:24, John 15:7, 1 John 5:15). He delights to reveal His will (Deuteronomy 29:29, Daniel 2:47, 1 Corinthians 2:10, Galatians 1:16). God will not withhold any good thing from you (Psalm 84:11). Go to Him and ask.

If you know your calling, are you using it; growing in it? Is this the year that He would have you make new connections? Read a new book? Take a new class? Seek out a mentor? Avoid becoming stagnant and choose to grow deeper and wider in your relationship with Christ and His plan for you. Refocus on Him and ask Him to help you build up the gift within you (1 Timothy 4:14) and grow in your calling.

God’s call may come at any time in your life, but it will always be in His perfect timing. Following are a few scriptural examples.

Near the age of 80, God personally met Moses (a shepherd by trade) and gave Him the enormous responsibility of leading the Israelites out of Egypt and slavery. By God’s divine leading and intimate relationship, Moses led the people to the promised land while teaching them God’s ways. Moses’ call was to lead and teach.

In Exodus 18:13-23, Moses became distracted by spending much time judging various matters among the people. Moses’ father-in-law Jethro recognized God’s call on Moses’ life, and knew that being the peoples’ judge from sunup to sundown was not God’s will. Jethro helped Moses refocus by recommending that other capable people be appointed to judge the daily matters. Moses would then be free to focus on hearing from the Lord, leading, and teaching God’s commands.

Mary was a young virgin woman when God called her to give birth to the Son of God (Luke 1:35). She humbly accepted His will. (The world may disagree, but in God’s eyes, motherhood is one of the most important things a woman can do. It is one of the most valuable ministries to be taken seriously and to be highly valued. You moms out there, I applaud you and cheer you on as you are doing a great work in raising your children.)

In Acts 6:2-4, the apostles were approached by some disciples complaining that their widows were being overlooked in the daily food distribution. Rather than stepping in and taking on additional responsibility, the apostles appointed others to handle the matter. They knew that their calling was prayer and the ministry of the word.

The apostle Paul (who had his own amazing personal call in Acts 9) wrote to young Timothy urging him to not neglect his gift and call, but to be diligent in preaching and teaching, and to give himself wholly to those things (1 Timothy 4:14). In 2 Timothy, Paul continued admonishing him in different ways to stay focused.

As this new year get rolling, make more time to be with the Lord. Reflect on what He has already brought you through. Ask Him where He wants to lead you this year. Whether in small steps or big ones, refocus your time and energy to accomplish His will. Give Him first place, and He will give you the requests of your heart.

Called to Dance (Personal Testimony)

Sitting quietly in a darkened room filled with Christian women for a weekend retreat, the prophetic psalmist paused between songs. Pointing me out, she said “this next one’s for you.” She poured out the Lord’s words to me in song. “Just like a swan on a lake… like the ripple on the water… like a crystal drop of rain, dancing on the street… dance, child, dance.”

Questions raced through my mind. I’d never danced for the Lord before, nor did I have any dance background, so what was this? Did she pick out the right person? It was a beautiful song, and I just couldn’t get over the fact that it was for me. I bowed my head in my lap, crying as she sang, not understanding what the Lord was saying. Somehow, the Lord must be pleased with me, and was giving me a present hope in exchange for hope deferred that had been making my heart sick.

“…the red seas in life will part… dance a faster dance… just put one foot in front of the other… dance, child, dance.” Thinking of the troubles in my life, I decided that this must be how I overcome them – by dancing for the Lord. During the second night of the retreat, she pointed me out again declaring that the Lord was confirming the message. In the spirit, she saw a clock with the second hand one mark before the midnight hour (think Cinderella and her pumpkin coach). The word was confirmed, and the time was very near.

So, I began worshiping the Lord, in secret, late at night, in the basement, the music barely audible. With just a few uncomfortable steps, I was often broken.  Tears flowed out as I tried to move, feeling terribly awkward but worshiping the Lord the best I could. Through these moments, I grieved over my inabilities (not only in dance, but in relationships) and He began to heal my heart from past traumas and current difficulties.

Several years later, I pondered what in the world I was supposed to do with this personal word about dance. I wasn’t dancing at church as some had said I would, or anywhere else for that matter. I figured that if I was going to do what I had been called to do, I’d better truly learn how dance. Ballet lessons began, but quickly ended due to financial difficulties, so my worship continued, occasionally, in private.

I kept growing in the Lord by reading His Word, praying, and regularly attending church. In the later years of homeschooling my children, a friend spoke to me as we shared a moment of prayer.  “I feel that the Lord is saying there is something that you have ‘put on the shelf.’ He says it’s OK to take it down when the time comes.” I wondered if this was about the dance I was called to, but I had no clue as to how to get this “something” off the shelf and activated.

A few church changes came over the years. I enjoyed each one and grew spiritually, but I always knew when the Lord was calling me to the next place. Eventually, He led me to a church where the waiving of flags and worship dance were welcomed and encouraged. About a year or more with this newest church family, the Lord one day asked if I would wave a banner for Him. With my heart pounding in my chest, and a small portion of boldness barely overcoming the large portion of fear, I picked up a flag and waved.

People more confident and more graceful than I, came and went through this church waving flags in worship. I would occasionally join in the best I could. Others in my church purchased sets of silk flags. I purchased a set and kept them hidden at home, only to come out during those private alone times with the Lord.

Now, fast forward a few years more. A week before the annual women’s retreat, guest speakers came to visit my church. They had spent several years ministering in Israel and were now on sabbatical in the U.S. spreading God’s love and sharing their music. They had recorded several albums that were available for purchase. I grabbed up three of them simply because of my love for music.

Following that service, the women met for specific details about our upcoming get-away. We were told that our Sunday service during the retreat would consist of everyone “bringing a part” in accordance with 1 Corinthians 14:26. “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” Fear tried to sneak in. What did I have to offer? I had no idea but hoped the Lord would give me something.

Heading home, I popped in one of the new CDs. Halfway along my route, the fourth song titled, The Spirit of the Lord, so touched me that I had to replay it, again, and again. When I got home, I was thrilled to see that no one was there. I was alone! Practically at a run, I zipped inside and dropped my purse and Bible. After grabbing those stashed-away silk flags, I began moving to this new song. It was as if the Spirit of the Lord was downloading a dance for me. Filled with excitement, I couldn’t stop dancing. I knew I had my part for the upcoming retreat. Fear tried to come in, telling me I didn’t have the confidence or the ability, but there was no longer any room for it. With Holy Spirit’s help, I slammed the door shut on that spirit of fear.

The retreat was one of the best ones I’ve been to. I watched the women step out and share from the gifts the Lord had placed in them; and I bravely danced the dance. Praise God, something had certainly shifted! Finally, I had stepped out to put one foot in front of the other and it was a joy. I am overwhelmed at God’s mercy, for sixteen years from His call to this point of stepping out seems more than a “second before midnight” to move into an anointing. How patient and kind the Lord is, and I am brought to tears as I write this.

Since then, I have continued to grow by the Lord’s direction, participating in classes, video teachings, and other ministries focused on biblical study and worship dance. I love this closing scripture that beautifully describes the emotions of my heart towards Him and His merciful, glorious ways.

O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and how incomprehensible His ways!
For “who has known the mind of Adonai, or who has been His counselor?”
Or “who has first given to Him, that it shall be repaid to him?”
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 11:33-36 TLV

 

When God Breaks Through

I was losing ground.  Projects that I had been working on were being constantly pushed to a back corner as I addressed other things needing more immediate attention.  When time for those waiting projects became available, I could not get motivated to re-start them.  I was overwhelmed by the chaotic clutter that had been building.  Resentments and irritants tried to sneak in and take place in my mind; but the Word says to stay steadfast and stand firm against the enemy.  “Remember,” I told myself, “God brings truth and peace, Satan brings lies and discontentment.  God creates, and Satan destroys.”  I continued to seek Him each morning, trying different things to start out better and stay on track; reading the Bible, praying, listening, and writing what I heard.

On this new day of shopping and errands, my efforts stopped way short of anticipated goals, but the newly purchased pillows on the couch sure did help my mood.  I put off the much-needed house cleaning… again, and began searching online… again, for an answer to a puzzling piece of my writing project.  “Remember,” I spoke to myself. “As Winston Churchill once said, ‘Never, never, never give up.’”  One search led to another, and another.  I clicked on a video that popped up in the search results.  At first, it didn’t look like much, but through it I was led to another website.  As I perused yet another website, the feeling began to swell that this was it.  The connection and answer I’d been anxiously seeking.

I sat and pondered as thoughts of King David in the Bible came to mind.  God said of him, ‘I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do My will’ (Acts 13:22). I wondered what it was that made David stand out from others who followed God?  With great consistency, David sought God for answers before he acted on things.  The few times he didn’t, things ended disastrously.  So I asked: “Is this information my answer?”  And as He often answered David in a simple, concise manner, He answered me, “Yes.”  Woohoo!  A missing piece was found!

At that moment, the noise of thunder shook the house and rain began to fall.  I prayed with gratitude and thankfulness for the much needed rain, and prayed that there would be no damaging hail.  The rain increased and came down heavier—a loud hard pounding on the deck and windows—yet the Lord filled me with peace.  This seemed to be a rain of abundance; a picture of God’s abundance that He has begun to pour out for His people. My mind puled with new inspiration and energy. New ideas flowed once again.

Relieved to have the answer I sought, along with some fresh ideas, I set my project aside and got started on the neglected job of house cleaning.  In the middle of washing dishes, spirit-moving worship music playing in the background, I stopped to give God thanks for the answers that He is faithful to give.  Something powerful happens in the depths of grateful hearts.  I thought again of King David; the many worship songs he created, the skill and joy that flowed though him as he played instruments, sang songs, or danced with great joy to the Lord.  It then seemed to me that my worship flags were calling from the closet. Or, was it the Holy Spirit that beckoned me to get them out?  It had been some time since they had seen the living room ceiling.  Living room ceiling?  How about outside?  The rain had stopped and the Colorado sun was again shining brightly.  “Yes,” I thought. “Let’s go outside, wind and all, and glorify the Lord!”  I imagine now, that He was laughing with me and enjoying that moment.  He has the answers we need.  As a good father does, He delights to provide for us.

Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full.”

John 16:24 (NASB)

I am convinced that we so often miss God and what He has for us because we are incredibly impatient beings. Life speeds along so fast as we try to be involved in all that the world has. We constantly search to make life easier so that we have time to do even more. What if the answers to the challenges we face are not in finding how to create new efficiencies that will allow us to accomplish more, but rather in continually seeking the Lord and enjoying what is right before us. He created us for relationship with Him, and yet He is the first one that we turn away from.  Developing relationships take time, and to have a successful ones, other pursuits must be put aside. As I continued to seek Him, He showed me the answer I needed.  He always does.

To read more about King David and his heart to seek the Lord, you can find his stories in these books of the Bible: 1 Samuel 16-31, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings 1-2, 1 Chronicles 11-29, and Psalms.

Treasure

Each year I try to read the entire Bible. Many people (speaking of Christians) don’t read the Bible for a variety of reasons such as; it’s boring, it doesn’t apply to my life, I don’t understand it, or it takes too long. Understanding comes by studying though, and studying does take time and repetition. Since the Bible covers such a vast amount of time, there is no way I could comprehend it all with just one read-through. Just as the subject of history was repeated and expanded upon each year through my primary and high school years, I decided some time ago that God’s word was important enough to study and expand my knowledge of who He is by reading, and then re-reading, the Bible. It really does not take that much time (about 20-30 minutes, about 5 chapters, per day), and understanding of God’s ways, times, and cultures, increases each year.

About a month ago, I was speaking with a visitor at my church who mentioned that he uses the New American Standard Bible (NASB). I was immediately interested, remembering that my grandfather’s Bible is that version. I have read several Bible versions, and have my own favorite one that I normally read. I was close to finishing reading it through for the year. Upon hearing this friend talk about the accuracy of the NASB version, I decided it was time, in 2021, to read this version that I hadn’t yet read.

Back at home in my prayer room, I took the Bible from the shelf and thumbed through it. Reminiscing, I looked at my grandfather’s funeral service bulletin tucked into the front of the book titled A Service of Death And Resurrection. Following that service in 2007, family gathered together at my grandfather’s home to share stories and love. My dad and aunt had chosen to give the grandchildren opportunity to choose keepsakes from my grandparents’ home (my grandmother had passed about 18 months earlier). One thing that I chose to take for a treasure was Grandpa’s Bible lying in the magazine rack next to his reclining chair. Picking it up, I thumbed through it. There appeared to be nothing in the Bible, except a purple cloth bookmark labeled How to Use the Bible, with scriptures listed for every common need. There were no markings—highlighting or underlining—that I could see with a quick glance.

While growing up, my brothers and I periodically spent the night with my grandparents. At the end of the evening, the TV would be turned off, and Grandpa would read from The Daily Bread devotional booklet and then read the recommended scriptures from his Bible. While in college, I occasionally returned for a weekend visit. During one particular visit, the night got late and I retired to my room. I quieted the Danish coo-coo clock on the wall so that I could sleep, and turned out the light. Minutes later my grandmother came in. She asked me to get up and come out while Grandpa read the day’s devotion and scripture. I cherish that memory now. Who knows why they did that—being so specific as to get me out of bed for the devotion. Maybe they thought their oldest granddaughter was becoming a little too distant and reckless away at college—which was true—or maybe they realized their responsibility to speak the Word to future generations to instill, treasure, and save (Deuteronomy 11:19).

So this year, the fourteenth after his passing, I began reading the NASB New Testament. Matthew; Mark; then I skipped forward to look something up in John, and there it was. John 14:1, underlined! “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” “Me” was double-underlined. And then verse 6. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” Treasure! I’ve found treasure within the treasure, and a glimpse into what was important in my grandfather’s life.

I decided to add several Psalms to each day’s reading to assure I would get through the Bible in a year or less. Another underlining! Psalm 5:1 “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my groaning.” This one deeply hurt my heart, knowing some of the great disappointments and troubles of my grandparents’ lives, and it drew my heart even closer to them. Like all people, my grandparents made mistakes, made people angry, hurt people, but mostly, they loved their family and neighbors and worked hard.

As I think of Grandpa’s continued maturing in old age, and especially through horrible tragedies, he became a little quieter, more loving, more thoughtful, ever-more humble and kind. He was always a fun and loving grandfather; teasing, horse rides, rumble seat rides in local parades, homemade ice-cream, special-made buttered popcorn, holiday board games—just a few of my favorite times.

There is a time for everything under the sun. It’s been so many years. Why am I reading this Bible now, 14 years later? I looked up the meaning of the number 14 in The Divinity Code (Thompson & Beale). Three biblical references to the number fourteen are 1) Double measure of spiritual perfection, 2) Passover, and 3) Deliverance and liberty. I am thrilled with the spiritual references—things I can certainly relate to and hope for this year. I remember at the passing of each of my grandparents that I asked the Lord to pass on—adding to mine—their spiritual faith. The Lord hears and answers our requests.

As I dig deeper into this Holy Book, I find other neat and gentle under-linings. Maybe some are from my grandmother, or maybe they were placed there after her passing; a small scrap of paper that simply says “BLESS”, and another that says “Micah 6:8” (“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”). Despite the chaos that I see in the world today, this is going to be a very good year. A year-long treasure hunt of spiritual blessings from my grandparents. A Happy New Year indeed!

 

A New Dance

Dancing for the Lord is one of the gifts He gave me—without me asking for it. Through my study of the Bible, it is clear that God has planned many things for each one of His children, and these things, or gifts, have been placed within us at the time that He created and planned our lives before we came to be in this world.

I’ve had a lot of learning and growing to do in the area of dance, including being comfortable to say yes when asked to dance. As part of my development process, I have come to know that God is trustworthy and faithful to guide me in each challenge and offer.

With this in mind, when I was asked to do a Christmas dance at my church, I gave my “yes” and began searching for the right song. What song would the Lord have me do? Lauren Daigle’s Noel was the one I kept returning to. Now, how would the Lord have me dance? Listening to the song, I closed my eyes to see how Holy Spirit would direct me. Swing flags? Really?! It’s a bit of a slow song to use swing flags, but I sensed it was time for a new dance with different flags. I’ll give it a try, I thought.

I had choreographed, and practiced. The day and time for the dance quickly came.  Then, in the middle of the dance, the “unthinkable” happened… I dropped a flag. The twist of one tangled around the other, pulled it right out of my hand, and it dropped to the floor. In the matter of a second or two, thoughts sped through my mind. Just keep going. Thank God it didn’t fly into the crowd. Can I go on  with one flag? I’ll have to step around the one on the floor. I might slip on it. Gotta have that flag to finish the dance. So, as smoothly as I could I picked up the flag and kept going. I finished the dance and had fun, full of love and joy, worshipping and celebrating the Lord in this season of His birth.

One of the best lessons in life is to treat little mishaps (even big ones) as rain on a duck’s back. Let it slide right off and keep going. If we are living rightly, we live for the Lord, and not for ourselves or anyone else. Keeping this in mind enables us to push aside what others may think of us. What truly matters is what the Lord thinks of us. The Lord planned each of our lives (Psalm 139:13-16). He is with us and for us (Isaiah 41:10). He delights in us (Zephaniah 3:17). He created good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). He strengthens and protects us (2 Thessalonians 3:3). He will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20). He loves us (Jeremiah 31:3, John 3:16).

In all things, I try to keep in mind why I do what I do. It is for the Lord, and sometimes, others get blessed in the process. There is such pressure and competition in all of our “growing up” and living. A slip like the one in my dance can be horrifying if our focus is on the crowd. If I had stayed focused on the crowd—as I was when I first began stepping out in dance—I would not have made it very far. Likely, I would have given up due to constant imperfection. The crowd (including ourselves) will always notice and point out the one mistake over the rest that was done well. I’ve learned to dance for only One. He is the One who called me to it, and it is first and foremost for Him. He never points out the “slips,” but rather, He cheers me on, pleased at my willingness to move at all, saying, “well done.”

And how did my church respond to the dropped flag? Just like they always do. Full of joy and praise as I danced and led them in worshipping our God. It’s a church like no other I’ve been to, where you are truly given the space to grow at your own pace, and where gifts are recognized and encouraged regardless of depth of skill and length of training. It is all praise to the Lord, who accepts each one of us right where we are. How very blessed I am there.

If we wait and work for perfection, much of life will pass us by. The Lord merely looks for willingness. For all His children and all who would seek Him, He says, “Stop looking at the world, and look at Me instead.”

“…I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly!” John 10:10 (TLV)

Graham Crackers with God

Nearly a couple hours have passed. I am filled with frustration over sleep that refuses to come. Lying in the dark, dim lighting from outside seeping into my room, I ponder the possible reasons.

Did I have caffeine?

Did I eat too much? Too little?

Was it not shutting off my ipad within a reasonable time before bed?

I pray for my family, friends and country, my mind slips here and there, a sense of anxiousness in my belly. Why? This isn’t like me to feel this way. I talk with God.

Did He want me to get up? Spend some time with Him?

2 I slept but my heart was awake.
 Listen! My beloved is knocking:
“Open to me, my sister, my darling,
 my dove, my flawless one…”

3 I have taken off my robe—
 must I put it on again?
I have washed my feet—
 must I soil them again?

Song of Songs 5:2-3

I think to myself, “It’s warm in bed. Maybe a few more minutes will bring the sleep I crave.”

Nope.

A still, small voice: “Graham crackers and milk? You enjoy that with your boys…”

Hmm… milk might help me sleep. I lie still just a bit longer cherishing the visions of times past of sharing graham crackers and milk with my boys. Graham crackers with God? OK. I’ll get up.

Peering into the darkness through the ceiling-high west-facing windows, small globes of hazy farm and porch lights glow through the chilly fog outside. Quietly, I sneak to the kitchen, search for the crackers, and pour a small glass of milk. Dipping the unbroken cracker in I hold it there for a count of 5. Gingerly pulling it out to prevent the sopping cracker from breaking and falling back into the glass, I pop it into my mouth. Mmmm. Yes, that’s good.

Drawn to view the foggy outdoor atmosphere again, I find my way back to the large windows. Gazing at the mysterious darkness, thinking that I am alone, I sense and know in my heart that I am not alone. My Lord is with me. He wants to spend time with me.

Does the east-facing front window have the same view? Is the sidewalk wet from the mist? I need to check it out. Flipping a switch on the wall, the exterior garage light comes on. Wrong one. I tap it off, flip the next one on, and the porch light beams brightly. Slipping over to the window, I am shocked to see a four-by-four buck a couple yards away happily nibbling at my Autumn Stonecrop Sedum – yep, the one that I had noticed earlier in the day with its rosy-colored flowers all neatly cropped off. The culprit is caught red-handed. I can’t believe the boy hadn’t spooked and run off as the lights flicked on and off.

I watch and enjoy him for several minutes. A few yards away from him, I spot a doe barely visible in the dark. He decides to wander off, his doe following. Two more deer, barely visible, saunter by. Wow.

I know. Is this really a big deal? Deer are common here, but they are still beautiful and marvelous to watch – so quiet and graceful – up-close through the front window. Yes, it’s a big deal. Especially when God Himself doesn’t immediately send my desired sleep so that He can have the opportunity of quiet, personal, one-on-one time, to speak and show off some of His creation.

I finish my graham crackers and milk, marveling at His goodness, His kindness, His gentleness, His desire to be with me. We visit. I read His word. My eyes get heavy. Quietly slipping back into bed, I sleep.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
29 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.
30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30