Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Praying for Rain

In a dry and weary land, what if our prayers for rain aren't exactly addressing the real issue?
“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:13-14 NASB
Verse 14 is relatively well-known by many Christians (and it seems like we mostly think of healing our land to mean purging the evil from it), but verse 13 doesn't often get quoted along with it. I've been thinking about it more lately since we need rain pretty badly. Specifically, in what ways do I need to humble myself? What meaningless activities can I cut out in order to spend more time talking to God and seeking His face? What wickedness is lurking in my heart that needs to be rooted out?
The Bible is not a book of fables but of real history and truth. These words were originally spoken to the people of ancient Israel, the people chosen to represent the Great I Am to the rest of the world. 
The coming of Jesus the Messiah opened the door for Jew and Gentile alike to come near to God and join His family. If these words in 2 Chronicles revealed such a cause and effect relationship for their heart conditions then, why should we think it would be any different for us who are part of His family today?

With all that said, I'm still praying for rain too!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Looking Beyond the Prickles

Today after moving the heifers into the next pasture I was walking back to the tractor and passed one of these bull thistles in bloom.  We try to mow them off when possible, so it doesn't eventually turn into a thistle Christmas tree farm.  The pretty purple blossoms really caught my eye and the first thought that came to my mind was, "How can something so beautiful come from something so undesirable?"  I walked headlong into that spiritual lesson.
I was reminded just yesterday in a conversation with a brother in Christ to pay more attention to what God might be saying to me in my daily time among the cows and His creation.  It was as if the moment I posed the question regarding these thistle blossoms, God wasted no time in seizing the opportunity to answer.  And this is what I got:
The painful, unpleasant, undesirable (insert your own adjective to add to the list) seasons, circumstances (maybe even people) that occupy space in our lives have a way -- when we surrender to Father God -- of bringing forth something beautiful in time.
I thought about the bull thistle a little more, and remembered that it has a taproot.  Taproots are good at penetrating deep in the soil, breaking up hardpan layers as well as bringing up valuable minerals from areas that are inaccessible to more shallow root systems.  It isn't difficult to see the spiritual parallels here either.  If my heart is hard, maybe God in His wisdom would use a spiritual taproot to break through.  And once the root is in, it does its work of bringing up nourishment from the seemingly dormant depths.  If the hardpan becomes penetrable, then a way begins to be made for other roots to grow deeper too.  This means when a drought comes, the whole canopy of plant life has greater reserves to draw from.  The deeper we go in our relationship with God, the better we can weather the storms and trials we face.
I also did a quick search on bull thistles and learned that parts of them are even edible.  You can read more about that at http://www.eattheweeds.com/thistle-touch-me-not-but-add-butter-2/.  If you've ever encountered a bull thistle, you know that they HURT when you brush against them!  And I know the cows don't care to eat them (who could blame them?).  The secret in the method, of course, is removing the spines.
Isn't that how it is in life too?  We bump into (or are bumped by) something painful, and our instinctive reaction is to get away from it so we don't keep feeling pain and discomfort.  But what if we could see that behind the prickly spines there is nourishment and ultimate growth for our soul?  What if we could see that at maturity, beauty will bloom?
I'm being convicted today.  I don't want to fight against the tools God desires to use to transform my heart to be like His, but I think I have been.  The good news is He is always willing to show us the better way, no matter how many times we mess up.  All we have to do is ask.  And, just maybe, stop and smell the...thistles.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Blow the Trumpet!

Saturday morning after milking I went to take care of the nursing cows and their babies.  Some challenges our family has been facing on the farm were weighing heavily on us that morning, but I recognized the oppressive evil spirit that sought to enslave me (us) to fear and discouragement.  There is great power in our minds to either agree or refute the apparent power of spirits like these.  As I rode my bicycle down the road on the way to the pasture I suddenly realized the battle going on for my mind, and I said "no!"  I'm going to sing and praise Jesus!  So I did, starting to sing of my love and need for Him.  Then I started thinking again about a friend's vision of an unbelievably huge angel standing guard on our farm.  I voiced the words "HUGE ANGEL!" a couple times, and then suddenly I found myself saying over and over again, "Blow the trumpet in Zion!!"  Now, I figured that was in the bible somewhere, but that's not the kind of phrase that I would just conjure up from my own mind randomly, so I was pretty sure the Lord was inviting me to discover and be a part of something.  When I got back to the barn I looked up and found that this phrase, "Blow the trumpet in Zion", occurs twice in the book of Joel 2.  Verses 1 and 15.
Verse 1 says, "Blow a trumpet in Zion,
            And sound an alarm on My holy mountain!
            Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
            For the day of the LORD is coming;
            Surely it is near..."
Verse 15 says, "Blow a trumpet in Zion,
            Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly..."
The whole chapter is very powerful, so I encourage you to read the verses before, between, and after as well!  When I told Mom and Dad about what had just happened,  Dad told me that as he was coming down the road to milk that morning, Jason and Kathy were leaving for the market, and Kathy told him she'd awakened early that morning and to read Zechariah 9:11-17.  He read it to me.  Again, there is much to unpack in the whole passage, but this was verse 14:
Then the LORD will appear over them,
            "And His arrow will go forth like lightning;
            And the Lord GOD will blow the trumpet,
            And will march in the storm winds of the south."
Since then, I've been reading other verses which speak of blowing the trumpet.  There were different types of occasions which warranted it, such as war, anointing a king, warning of coming judgment, announcing the feasts...the Hebrew word used in Joel 2:1 for "sound an alarm" is ru-ah, spelled resh vav ayin.  Not only is it used to mean sounding the battle cry or sounding the alarm, but also as a shout of joy, triumph, or jubilation!  There is so much joy in the presence of God, but since all our righteousness is as filthy rags, His manifest presence leaves us undone...He's out to kill every false identity within us so that we can return to and live out of our original design!  It's a wonderful and terrible thing to fall into the hand of the Living God, and the stripping away of our fleshly nature may seem a painful process, but it is so worth it.  It's really hard to kill a dead man (or woman).  I believe the more dead we are to the sin nature, the more invincible we can become against the powers of darkness.  Not that he won't try, but if I know who and Whose I am, nothing can touch me without the permission of the Great I AM.  "He will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him..."
This morning I followed a link for a call to prayer in and for our nation by Billy Graham's daughter, Anne Graham Lotz for 7 days starting today.  The first thing I read was this:
Blow the trumpet…sound the alarm…for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand-- Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God…    ~Joel 2:1, 13
Do I think God is speaking?  You can bet your bottom dollar on that!  Join us in praying this week, and fasting for 7 hours of your choosing next Monday the 7th.  Seven is an important number to God.  The Hebrew number/letter, zayin, means "involvement with God, sustenance, and Sabbath."  Let us involve ourselves in what moves His heart, watch Him sustain us, and find our Sabbath rest in Him.  Amen.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Oysters and Stuff

Last week I was thinking some more about Pearl the cow.  About how she got sick with milk fever and could have died but she didn't.  A few days before Pearl went down with her metabolic imbalance, Serendipity did the same thing.  And though we treated her several times, she couldn't overcome and we lost her.  I looked up the definition of serendipity again the other day, and when I meditated on it I got a strong sense that there was a prophetic message in the outcomes of these two cows' lives.
Serendipity means "the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way."  Hey, if things turn out happy and beneficial for you by chance, good for you.  But life is hard sometimes, isn't it?  Regardless of the faith lenses through which you view the world, and whether or not you believe we are living in the last days preceding the return of Jesus Christ, you can't deny that life is hard (and getting harder) for a lot of people.  Sometimes these difficulties come as a result of our own brokenness and bad choices, and sometimes they seem to be completely beyond our control.  Yet maybe the source is not quite as important as what we do with the difficulties.  We can let them make us bitter or better, right?
Most people have heard how pearls are formed.  The grain of sand (or other foreign particle) somehow gets inside the oyster, irritating the flesh inside the shell.  The oyster reacts to the irritant by covering it with layer upon layer of calcium carbonate, and it becomes a thing of beauty inside the oyster.  The sand is still there.  It doesn't so much define the oyster, and it's not exactly an intrinsic part of the shellfish.  But the oyster that has redeemed the unwanted sand is the one sought after for the beauty it carries within.  Wikipedia writes that the word pearl has become a metaphor for something very rare, fine, admirable, and valuable.  Why do only some oysters end up with pearls inside them?  Are some just really good at keeping out the sand?  Do they spit it back out?  Do they carry on as if nothing is doing damage to their inward parts?  I don't know.  But if we take this very natural realm scenario and compare the spiritual realities represented we might wonder the same thing about ourselves.  Everyone has difficulties and irritations come into their lives.  Why do some people end up with something of value on the inside while others are simply torn apart?
Perhaps a quote by Charles Swindoll explains this to some degree: “We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
Well, as I thought about Pearl and Serendipity, I sensed God was saying that this idea of our lives unfolding happily by chance must die.  There isn't much of eternal value in that.  What will endure is the pearl.  Does God cause every painful thing that comes into our lives?  I don't believe so at all!  But will He redeem all those painful things into beauty that lasts?  Absolutely.  Reminds me of Jesus' parable in Matthew 7 about the house built on the sand and the house built on the rock.  BOTH houses went through the storm.  One fell and one stood.  Serendipity and Pearl both had milk fever.  One fell and one stood.  So in the scope of our lives, if the storm is 10%, will we fall or stand with our 90%?  We can't afford to rely on a serendipitous outcome.  King Jesus is looking for pearls...
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it." Matthew 13:45-46

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pearls of Wisdom

The first two and a half weeks of April were sort of a blur.  Thirty calves in three weeks, 24 of those coming in two weeks.  Cold snaps, slow grass growth, a couple of calving difficulties, and metabolic disorders were some of the main challenges that kept us addressing urgencies.  Two cows came down with milk fever (hypocalcemia) a few days apart.  Despite treating the first one orally several times she didn't make it.  The day Pearl calved, she seemed to have been in labor all day and I was concerned when she hadn't delivered by evening.  After supper, though, we checked her and found a little heifer not even dried off but already standing up nursing aggressively!  When Pearl went down the next day with milk fever, we gave her some oral calcium, but called the vet so he could give her an IV calcium treatment too (it was evening before he could get away from the clinic).  I didn't want to chance losing another cow if I could help it!  I put her calf, Petunia in the barn to feed her on the bottle since nursing would exacerbate Pearl's condition.  The next morning she seemed to be past the milk fever crisis, but still couldn't get up and continued to flop over on her side, unable to get back upright.  We propped her up with a bale of hay and put a polywire around her so that the other cows wouldn't eat her backrest!  I was encouraged that she would drink water and eat some hay.  After lunch I got away from the shop to check on her again and was overjoyed to see her standing up!!
When a cow has milk fever, milking her can pull too much calcium from her body.  I wanted to let Petunia nurse but knew just a little bit was all that was safe for Pearl.  So that next morning we turned Pearl into the barn with her calf, but she didn't seem to be interested in her baby.  I got her to stand still so the calf could nurse a bit, then separated them again.  I felt like Pearl was a little borderline so we gave her another oral treatment, and she seemed to improve throughout the day, so she nursed the calf again that evening.  The next morning I let the calf have her fill.  Her tummy was full!!  After they had been together a while I went into the barn to check and see how Pearl seemed to be doing before turning them out to the pasture again.  By now she had regained the bond with her calf, and as I stood in front of her, she sort of shook her head at me, as if to indicate she didn't want me messing with her or her calf.  At that point I was pretty sure she was mostly better!
As I thought about it, Pearl taught me something.  She was sick, and we helped her.  We had to give her medicine--which apparently didn't taste all that good--to aid in her recovery.  We had to take her baby away for a time...letting the calf nurse literally could have killed her.  I had to put a boundary around her to keep the troublemakers out, but once she was able to stand, it may have looked to her more like a prison.  After all these things, when the crisis had passed, she seemed to see me more as foe than friend.  And I thought, isn't this how we are with God sometimes?  Sometimes all is not right in our world, and we need Him to fix it because we don't have the strength or ability to make it happen ourselves.  Maybe He knows that in order for our healing, He may have to give us something that doesn't taste very good at the time but its purpose is to address what's wrong inside us.  Maybe He's giving us boundaries, not to imprison us but to protect us from that which will ultimately keep us flat on our backs.  And there may be times when He removes even good things from our grasp because He has our ultimate good in mind.  As Pearl shook her head at me, it reminded me of the times we may have shaken our fists at God.  "How could you allow this, God??"  "How could you have taken this from me, God??"  Is it not a lack of understanding on our part for what He seeks to do in us?  This is not to say that He causes all the trials and difficulties and hurt, because we have an enemy of our souls, too.  But even those He will redeem!  He is in the business of turning us from death to life.  It's Good News!  So remember Pearl, and instead of shaking your head at your Shepherd, consider thanking Him for how He's saving your life.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Crown College

I bought a sweatshirt at Goodwill the other day.  I have been wanting another grey hoodie, but I'm frugal, so I usually shop secondhand.  It often seems like the luck of the draw when you have something specific in mind and you're looking for it in a secondhand clothing store.  So when I ran across this one the other day, the right size, right color, with the words "Crown College" on it, I was a happy girl.  I don't know if other people read messages written on my clothing, but I like to carry a message just in case, and this one had potential.  I didn't know anything about Crown College, but I decided this was a prophetic sweatshirt anyway.
When I got home I did a search and discovered Crown College is in Minnesota (presumably where the sweatshirt was originally sold).  I'm sure it's a fine school, but when I saw this shirt my thoughts were that "Crown College" is very much a spiritual journey.  Think of it as another name for "School of the Holy Spirit."  It's the training grounds for the crown of life awaiting those who are approved after persevering under trial (James 1:12).
The other morning I was helping with a task I do not particularly enjoy.  It was a task of service, and although in general I find joy in serving people, I am not yet spiritually mature enough to enjoy every type of service apparently!  I am getting better I suppose, because at least soon after the fact I realized I could liken this to Jesus washing his disciples' feet (the difference was that he likely felt no chagrin in the midst of his washing and serving).  Growing in humility, developing character, giving sacrificially, loving unconditionally...these are some of the subjects covered in Crown College.
But how can we know whether we'll graduate with honors...or even graduate period?  Well, here is what I'm learning:  It's about relationship.  It's the relationship with us that Jesus and the Father desire so deeply.  Jesus is the Bridegroom, and he wants to marry us!  The Bible shows over and over again that God longs to be not only the King, but the Husband of His people.  Paul says that what God designed the human marriage of a husband and wife to be was a representation (as a shadow and type) of the relationship between Jesus and his Church.  The pure, simple truth is that God loves you and me.  No matter what we have done, who we have hurt or let down, how many times we have messed up.  It's not been enough to make Him give up on you.  He is waiting for every one of His children to return to Him, waiting for us to let Him save us.  How great is the love He has lavished upon us, that we should be called sons and daughters of God?  But is being a child of God the same as being the Bride of Christ?  Is He looking for something special in the ones He calls His Bride?
Revelation 19:7-8 has this to say about the marriage supper of the Lamb:  "'Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.' It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints."
The Bride has made herself ready... If this wording is any indication, I have a role to play in experiencing the fullness of what Jesus is offering me.  Yes, He is my Savior, the one who forgave me, who wiped my slate clean, and remembers my sin no more.  But I also have the opportunity to prepare myself--to clothe myself in righteousness--for my infinitely worthy Bridegroom, who has offered His heart to me!  If we as human beings have high standards for character qualities we look for in a mate, does it not stand to reason that the King of Kings would have pretty high standards Himself?  Yes, His mercy is new every morning...perhaps with the hope that each day the Bride-to-be will grow in the understanding of what makes His heart beat...
When you look at your relationship with God in the context of a marriage, does it not change what you want to do for Him and why?  Who would feel loved if your husband or wife spent time with you out of guilt, or gave you a gift because it's just something they're supposed to do or they thought you'd be angry if they didn't, or if they begrudgingly helped one of your family members in need?  No!  We desire gifts of the heart, do we not?  We desire acts of love for love's sake.  And so, I believe, does God.
But before you start thinking that God's not gonna be pleased with you unless you're perfect (although He does say "Be perfect (complete), even as I am perfect!), consider this... Before God changed Abram's name to Abraham, He made a promise to him.  A promise that looked somewhat impossible at the time, considering his childless state.  Yet Abram "believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness."  Abraham, the friend of God, perhaps donned his bright and clean fine linen garments of Bridal righteousness simply by believing what the Lord said.  I have to think Abraham graduated with honors!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Exposed and Forgotten

One day this winter after going to bed pretty late I woke up to a fully awake state pretty early, maybe around 5.  That is pretty unusual for me, so I tried to pray for a bit, then thought I would read in the Bible, and felt like Psalms would be a good place to go.  108 was the number that came to mind.  So I read it.  Not a whole lot jumped out at me.  I finished reading and went back to sleep I guess.  A morning or two later, I opened the Bible to read again in the Psalms, hoping a random turn to the page would, through the Holy Spirit, be some kind of spiritual food I needed.  I opened to Psalm 60, and started reading.  A few verses in, it started to seem very familiar.  I was trying to remember why that would be...had I read Psalm 60 recently?  But no, when I thought about it, these familiar words were in another place on the page when I had read them before.  Suddenly it clicked...several of the verses in Psalm 60 were nearly identical to Psalm 108.  And they weren't just any words you might expect, say, declaring God's praises or asking for deliverance.  Read for yourself from Psalm 108:

7 God has spoken in His holiness: "I will exult, I will portion out Shechem And measure out the valley of Succoth.
8 "Gilead is Mine, Manasseh is Mine; Ephraim also is the helmet of My head; Judah is My scepter.
9 "Moab is My washbowl; Over Edom I shall throw My shoe; Over Philistia I will shout aloud."

Needless to say, I was more than a little bit curious about why I had "randomly" read these two passages.  Was God inviting me to search out a mystery?  Maybe.  So I decided to study these three verses in Hebrew (to the best of my ability--I'm still pretty much a novice).  I wouldn't say it felt like there were any hallelujah choruses ringing to accompany whatever revelations I might have had as a result of this, but there were some really good things He showed me.  One of these was in the phrase, "Gilead is Mine, Manasseh is Mine."  Every word in Hebrew can be traced back to a three-letter root word.  So when you look a word up in the lexicon, there may be insights to discover from the definitions of its root.  
The root for Gilead is spelled gimmel lamed ayin.  It means expose, lay bare; disclose, make known.
The root for Manasseh is spelled nun shin hey.  It means forget; forgottenness.

Yes, these are geographical places that existed, and God was declaring His possession of them when you look at the literal meaning.  But He is so deep.  He can say a few words or letters and be telling us so many things at once we could learn something new every time we read it!  I think He may have also been saying, "It's Mine to expose, it's Mine to forget."  I believe God pursues us and woos us with His love, inviting us into relationship with Him so that He can teach us who He created us to be...people who walk and talk in fellowship with the Living God of all creation!  When we invite Him to come into our hearts and change us from the inside out, that is the process of transformation that makes us more and more like Him.  But it seems to usually be a process, at least in my experience!  There are things we hold on to inside that are decidedly not like Him or from Him.  At the root they're all lies from the enemy of our souls.  Wounds from the past that may have warped our hearts somehow.  Maybe resulting in bad habits or dysfunction, or even physical ailments.  Maybe hatred or bitterness or depression or lust, or maybe even cancer.  One thing I am confident of is that God is willing to show us those things that He wants to heal in us and deliver us from.  HE is the One who does that.  He exposes what needs to be brought to light (sometimes gently, sometimes by ripping the band-aid off if 'gently' isn't loud enough), so that you and He can deal with it together.  But you know what else?  After it is dealt with, He FORGETS it!  The wrongs we've done, the times we've messed up, the lies we've believed and wrapped our lives around...it was all taken care of through the life, death, and resurrection of  His son Jesus Christ.  In God's judicial system, it disappears from your record!  So go ahead.  Ask the Lover of your soul what He wants to expose and bring into the light of His mercy and love, so you can both forget about it and move closer to the ultimate joy of becoming one with Him.

May He bless you on the journey.