Friday, May 4, 2012

Off-Roading in 4WD

For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. 
~ Proverbs 3:12

I am off the path a bit, the path of God's best plan. 

If it was just a matter of sinning, it would be so much simpler. If I was drunk (not that I ever would be), I could ask for forgiveness and stop getting drunk. If I'd been gossiping, I could repent and keep my mouth shut. But sometimes life brings us to a fork, and once we've chosen one side or the other, we have to follow it to its end, whether it was the right one or not.

God tried to tell me ahead of time, He really did. He knew what was going to happen, and what I should do.

I've mentioned The Little Voice on my main blog before. It's the quiet prompting of the Spirit in my heart, that I often realize only in retrospect was God trying to get my attention. Once you get a little practice listening to, recognizing, and obeying The Little Voice, God may decide you're ready for a larger test.

It isn't possible to share the details of what occurred. Too many of them aren't mine to make public. I will say that God spoke even more forcefully than usual, through my dear Christian sister-in-law. She said something I'll never forget, that there are good things and God things, and they aren't always the same things. And, faced with a choice between a good thing and a God thing, here I am, bumping along the path of the good thing that God said no to doing. 

Anyone who lives a Godly life will have trials, and in them will also find such joy and peace, because God is with us when He allows tests to come our way. Trials of our own making are much different. The good news is He doesn't abandon us, even when our wrong choices leave us blundering around outside His will. And, though I don't know what bumps are left, or what it will take, I know I'll end up back on the right road again.

In fact, Wednesday I had a startling realization during my prayer time. Even though my current situation wasn't God's best plan, since I'm here, I can start right now, this very second, and step back into His will. There will still be consequences to face, and I'm sure that more than once He'll have to kick on the heavenly 4WD to get me over a hurdle, but I can be where He wants again from this point in time. 

What does He want me to do? I thought about that a lot. Keep studying, keep praying, both for myself and for the others on my prayer list, and keep writing. And start listening a bit better. Ok, a whole lot better. 

No clue how long it will take, but I believe this path will wind around to the right one eventually, as long as I follow the above directions. In the meantime, I have a job to do. Study, pray, write, and listen. That'll keep me busy till I jounce and bounce my way back onto the path of God's will. There will still be bumps, dips, and obstacles, but it's still so much easier and more peaceful than.......

off-roading in 4WD.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Heavenly Grocery Store

Praying is a lot like shopping at your favorite grocery store. And even if you don't like shopping at an earthly market, you can't afford to miss out on these celestial bargains! Grab a cart and get started.

At the front of the store is a gateway labeled "Forgiveness Entrance". When you pass through, it blasts away any dirt, bugs, or other contaminants that would be out of place in the beautiful and clean grocery store. From top to bottom, you're completely cleansed.

As you walk in the door of the market, you're dazzled by the light. You've found something much bigger outside yourself, containing such power that there's no need for the energy-saver methods like only lighting 1/3 of the light bulbs at any given time. You can see everything so much more clearly, and you're only one step inside the door.

The display of advertised specials greets you in the entry. Every single display case in this section holds an item of praise. 

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise!  Ps. 100:4

For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised!  Ps. 96:4

Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever. Ps. 106:1

Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!  Ps. 107:8

No matter how pressing our business in the other parts of the store, we will miss out on a huge blessing if we push on by this important stop. There's not only a spiritual blessing here but a mental and physical blessing as well. Negative emotions depress our immune system, making us less resilient and more vulnerable to disease. The same God who wants us to be in good health wants us to praise Him. It draws us close to Him, and strengthens every part of our being.

Before we enter the main body of the store, let me tell you about a small section in the furthest corner. It contains wants, wishes, desires, and good options. There are many times in our lives when we put these items in our carts, wanting them and hoping we can keep them. Sometimes the Cashier will ring them up, but just as often, He'll put them on layaway, or even ask us to discard them. It's best to listen to His recommendation, no matter how hard it is to let go of these items. He knows what we need, and only chooses what is best, even if it seems heartbreaking at the time.

Once in a while, someone will grab the refused item back from the cashier and run out of the store with it. Not only do they suffer needlessly for shoplifting, but they had to leave most, if not all, of their other groceries at the counter.

For much of my prayer life, I've gone up and down this aisle, examining, shaking the packages, reading all the fine print, and trying to figure out before I get to the register which things I'm most likely to get to keep. Meanwhile, there was the whole rest of the store packed full of things that I was GUARANTEED to get to keep, and I hardly looked at those.

With age hopefully comes at least a little wisdom, so on this shopping trip we'll go through the other sections, too. If you look down at your cart, now heaped with praise, you'll see that it's labeled "Holy Spirit". In our own strength, we aren't able to carry what we need from the store even as far as the cash register, never mind all the way through life. He guides us at every step, and makes suggestions of what we need. The voice app is faint, and we have to be trained to listen for it. But with practice, we'll hear it more and more easily.

A rack of bread stands off to the left. There are only 66 loaves, and no matter how many you take, there are still 66 left. Each is different, but contains nutrients that we'll need to fight in the War. Remember to grab a large jug of water, too. The Bread of the Word and the presence of the Water of Life through the Holy Spirit are the foundation for all the rest of the purchases you're about to make. And whether it takes you one year or fifty, try each one of the 66 loaves.

If you follow each of these steps, you'll immediately arrive at the produce section, where all the Fruits of the Spirit are now available to you. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, and Temperance. Now, if you were to skip any of those first few sections, there would either be nothing at all in the produce section, or at best, the fruits would be small, underdeveloped, and maybe even a bit withered. But look at at the size of those fruits! Since you didn't grow them yourself, of course you won't take any credit. And whenever one of your friends asks you where you got them, you can refer them to the Market, too. Many people have made their first stop at the store because they saw the fruit that a friend brought home.

As you roll toward the other aisles to see what the store has to offer, you're astonished to see a box of Salvation already in your cart, even though you don't remember putting it there. Somewhere along the way, whether it was when you first chose to go to the grocery store, or parked in the parking lot, or walked inside and agreed to use the cart that had been provided for you, it quietly appeared. Sometimes a shopper may see this item pop into their cart, but often it slips in so quietly that they don't know till later that it's there.

It doesn't matter what order you use to shop the rest of the store. Once the foundation is laid, you may need to start with a different section each day. Discouraged or brokenhearted? Pick out some Sweet Comfort from 1 Thess. 5:9-11. Tired and worn out? Try a big bottle of Isaiah 40:31 Invigorating Strength Renewal. Need Wisdom? It comes in the extra-extra-EXTRA large size if you just ask. Give the Clerk your coupon from James 1:5. All the way down in Aisle Seven is Rest for the people of God, and if Satan has been attacking you really hard, try some James 4:7 Devil-B-Gone. 

Everything you need to walk from this moment all the way into the Kingdom is somewhere there on the shelves. I could write a whole book on the products that are available - there's too many to fit into one medium-length blog post. There are Suits of Armor, Soothing Balms to heal the wounds from battle, and in the clothing section, a whole line of one-size-fits-all Righteousness of Christ Robes. They fit on over your regular clothing, and no one else can actually see them, but everyone notices the difference. Boxes of Joyful Obedience, Willing Service to Others, and Total Purity Heartwash are just a few of the things you can find. The top shelves can be hard to reach, but the Grocer will lift you up if you ask.

All this would be amazing enough by itself, but you can actually ask for anything in the store to be applied to another person's account, too. Maybe a friend, relative, or even an enemy. The Grocer never forces anyone to take His merchandise, so by asking on behalf of others, it gives Him permission to work  for them in a way He couldn't have done if you hadn't asked. So while filling your own cart, keep an eye out for products that folks you know may need.

Finally, you find everything you were looking for that day, and walk to the front of the store. The Cashier rings up the price and says, "That will be one Perfection Card, please."

You hunt through your pockets, sure your Perfection Card must be in there, but all you can find is a couple of  greasy paper towels you used to check your oil with that morning. "I'm sorry, Sir. This is all I have."

"Not a problem." The Cashier smiles. "If you'll just hand me your dirty rags, I'll give you My own Perfection Card. The price for all your groceries has already been paid." Amazed and humbled, you take the bright crimson card. On the back it says in golden letters, "This card and all the products it purchased have been brought to you by the Blood of Jesus."

"Come again real soon," the Cashier says. "I'd love to see you again later today, and there's no limit to how many times you can visit."

"Thank you, Sir, I will," you whisper. You're so grateful that you find yourself stopping in the Praise Section one more time on the way out. 

I will praise thee, for thou has heard me, and art become my salvation. Ps. 118:21

As you load the groceries into the car, it sinks in. You can get whatever you need from the store, all the rest of your life, and it's already been paid for. The items you chose don't fill quite half your trunk. Next time, you decide, I'll get even more.

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
John 16:24

What are you going to ask for today? 

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Speedy Answer

Before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
~ Isaiah 65:24

It was a long, hard trip through Wal Mart. Due to the oil boom, Williston went from a sleepy city to an overcrowded metropolis almost overnight. Choked with traffic, saltwater trucks, trailers - even squatting in the Wal Mart parking lot itself, it's a major undertaking to navigate the once simple trip.

The exhaustion must have gotten to my traveling companion. To avoid embarrassment, we'll call her "Plom". After already standing in line with me for some time, she left her cart with me and dashed to the restroom. Moments after returning, she grew pale. (If a resident of northern Montana can actually grow any paler this time of year.) "I don't have my wallet." She looked her cart over in 1.7 seconds. "Be right back."

Of course, I immediately began to pray. There was even a neat little section in the Prayer Warriors books where some of our heroes misplaced the wallet with all the money and passports for the entire family, and it was protected by an angel in response to their prayers. "Dear Father, please protect Plom's wallet. Help her to find it, and intact, too, if it's Your will. Oh, and watch over everyone at the mission, and wow those Pillow Pets are cute! That cake pan looks like loads of fun, too. Twenty dollars? Well, not today, but it's still nifty."

Sigh. It's hard to be a prayer warrior in Wal Mart.

Pretty soon, Plom came back. No wallet. "Oh, that's right. Lord, please help her find her wallet, and be with my family, and boy am I ever thirsty. I hope one of the lines has some water in it..." After a couple more trips back and forth to the restroom, I suggested checking the trash cans, in case someone had found it, taken the cash, and dumped the rest. 

While she was gone, I prayed again. That time, I made it all the way to "amen". Turning around toward my cart, I found myself looking down at a familiar object. It took a moment to register. Quickly, I dialed the phone. "Um, Plom, I'm looking at your wallet right now."

"Where was it?????"

"In my cart. Ha ha ha, isn't that funny?"

Plom's heart started again, and her blood pressure sank to something approaching normal. "Yes. Ha ha. If you'd only called 15 seconds sooner, you could have saved me digging in both trash cans."

Not wanting to be one of the 9 ungrateful lepers, I immediately thanked God for answering my prayer. He had indeed posted an honest, reliable person to watch over Plom's wallet from the moment it was lost, till the moment it was found again. A person who would turn it over to the rightful owner as soon as it was found.

I just didn't know He was going to use me!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Another One?

Why would anyone need yet another blog? I can hear you asking that, and I totally get it. But I ask in return, how well would it work for you, if you washed, dried, and folded your laundry, then just dumped it all willy-nilly into whatever dresser drawer was closest?

In a moment of painful honesty, let me say that the above system would be a step up for my darling children. They like to drop their stacks of freshly folded laundry on the nearest space of open floor. On one memorable occasion, I handed Damon a stack of clean clothes from where I had just folded them on my bed. A few minutes later, I found them. FOUR FEET outside my bedroom door, he had set them on top of a hamper full of dirty clothes on its way to the laundry room. That may have been some kind of record. 

Just as I like to be able to reach into any drawer in the dark, and know exactly where to find what I'm looking for, I want my blog posts to be as organized as possible. I am a disorganized person trying to become an organized person, and every little bit helps! Not only that, but the ongoing subject of intercessory prayer deserves its own uninterrupted space.

To make it easier for you, I'm going to link all my blogs to each other. That way, all you have to do is look at one blog, and you'll be able to see if any of the others have new posts or updates. Look along the right-hand side, near the post list, and you'll see what I mean. 

After recently re-re-re-re-re-reading Celeste perrino Walker's Prayer Warriors trilogy, I have been inspired to take up the torch of intercessory prayer again - and keep it this time. I've already had several specific answers, and it's been just barely over a week. One of my first prayers, also inspired by the trilogy, was for God to give me a mission outpost to pray for. I had never asked for this before, and don't generally notice anything to do with specific missions. And yet, a day or two later, a mission post appeared on my Facebook news feed, for an African mission that's under heavy attack. It's in Tchad, a country right next to the fictional mission in the books. Here are a few posts you'll be interested in. 

Another answer to prayer was that my last remaining grandmother died this morning. She's suffered from a series of disasters, most recently landing in the hospital with diverticulitis. She had a blood transfusion, then bled it all out within a couple of hours. They didn't expect her to live through the night, yet somehow, by the next morning, she was sitting up in bed eating breakfast. (Hereditary stubbornness? I don't know what you're talking about.) Released to hospice, she nonetheless faced terrible suffering if she lived. I prayed that God would give her rest and relief, in whatever form was best. I'm so thankful that He heard my prayer, and she's sleeping in peace now.

So here's your second assignment. What do you mean? Of COURSE you're part of the prayer team! And yes, the mission is the first assignment. Jack got a call from a friend of ours named Simeon. He's asking for prayer for his father, who suddenly collapsed today and had to be rushed to the hospital.

There's so much to learn about praying for others, and I look forward to journeying with you toward a deeper and more personal bond withe the God of the universe. For tonight, I'll leave you with this thought. 

Hebrews 4
 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Join me as we boldly approach the throne of the universe. Boldly not because of who or what we are, but because we belong to the King.