Saturday, September 7, 2013

What could the humble give? {a little bird told me}

This little girl - she was so young. She knew only a bit, but probably thought she knew it all. Most of her knowing had yet to come in living. Such is the way of a 21-year-old. But she was in love with three men - her Savior, her Daddy, and her new husband. Nothing else mattered.

Her husband has adored, protected, and shepherded her. Her Daddy abandoned her because his self-destructive patterns made him too insecure to be near her. But it was her Savior who matured her. Made her who she is now, astride her thirties, having learned what she didn't know she didn't know, realizing now how much growing up she still has to do.

And what do the humble have to offer, by way of advice, when we've come to see how blurry our vision really is? What do the wise know, once we realize the measure of our measly wisdom in relative terms of God's?  And what could I say to you that you would listen to, you would hear, and not only that, but heed?

My words are thin, my knowledge still developing, but Someone once told me not to despise development. Because people brushed Him off too. Said, "Isn't this the carpenter's son, the boy who we once knew?" Thought, "What could he possibly have to offer me?"

But that didn't slow Him down, didn't shut Him up, didn't stop the Words, heeded or otherwise. And He refused to be discouraged.

This "a little bird told me" post is a bit different this week, because it's not really about what I'm offering as much as what I received. I went to meet with my mentor, Cathy Hembree, and I had an important question for her. What she taught me I need now and always. It was so profound, I thought maybe it might be useful wisdom for you also, Dear One. As I age, I realize I need more wisdom than ever, and I'm open like never before. Oh, how faithful He is to fill this hunger! Cathy is the daughter of a preacher, the wife and widow of Ron Hembree (QuickStudy, CornerstoneTV), and a minister of the Gospel on so many fronts. I cannot begin to describe the value of being mentored by her for the better part of two years. Not only does she teach me and coach me, but she loves me. I couldn't ask for more.

Here was my question:
"What do I say to someone who needs the advice I have to offer, but I know he or she doesn't want to hear it? And what do I do with my heart when what I give isn't received? How do I keep from hardening then?"

This response isn't word-for-word, rather my mental record of what she said. Her words more precious than golden apples on a silver platter.

"Number One, say this: The Bible says: "Buy truth and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding." [Proverbs 23:23]  We have to begin by establishing the value of these things, according to God. Then ask that person - "Do you want to receive the wisdom and advice I'm about to offer you?"
Second, remind them the Bible also says, "A friend loves at all times," [Proverbs 17:17] and a friend who loves gives love, which is truth. Ask the person - "Do you trust the friendship we have established enough to know that I will speak the truth in love to you?"

And if the person says "yes" to both of those, proceed to give them what you know, regardless if you think it's what they want to hear.

After you do, say, "I'm praying for you, but not just that you'll get what you want, but moreover what the Father wants for you, and that you'll hear not only what I'm saying, but what God is saying through me. I would like to ask you to pray also - that God will make it obvious to you what comes next, and that you'll be open to it, no matter how much you like or don't like what He says. If you don't agree with what I've just advised, warned, or said - that's fine, but before you make any decisions, please wait on the Lord, and I really do mean wait, and we can talk again in a few weeks" (or whatever time seems appropriate). 

"As for your heart, we must [and she humbly admitted she can struggle with this also] crucify all worry, guilt, and anger when people refuse to listen to us. We cannot go chasing after them on their wayward path and try to convince them again with the same repetitive arguments, and we must refuse to blame ourselves when their lives take a turn for the worse, wondering if we could have done more or tried harder or said more. Is Jesus our Model for ministry? [Here I answered, "Of course."] Tell me where we see Him chasing after someone who refused to believe? He didn't. Once He had initially gone to the broken and outcast, healed them or preached to them, He gave an invitation to follow Him and then He kept walking on the path to the Father and His will. Some of them followed Him, and others didn't. So why would we continue to go after people who refuse to repent and refuse to follow God's ways if Jesus didn't even do that?

Instead of worrying, feeling guilty, or relentlessly trying to convince a person, we've got to learn to open our hands and surrender. We must refuse anger or bitterness, and choose release. We must also choose our focus. Do you feel angry when you focus on their wayward choices? [Yes] Do you feel angry when you focus on Jesus? [No, not at all.] Then focus on Christ. Look not to what is "wasted." You are ministering as unto the Lord, so their response is not your focus. Of course you want them to walk in God's ways, but He is still at work, even when it seems like you're wasting your time. It is NOT a waste of time - you are serving Him. If we focus on the disappointment, we will be upset, but if we focus on walking toward Him, our joy will not be robbed. We will be fulfilled, encouraged, and strengthened to continue in ministry. With our thoughts and attention on Him, we will guard our hearts against being hardened, and we will continue to be effective, in His sight, which is only thing that matters anyway. Where are we directing our attention?"

"Since you became alive again, so to speak, when Christ arose from the dead, now set your sights on the rich treasures and joys of heaven where he sits beside God in the place of honor and power.  Let heaven fill your thoughts; don’t spend your time worrying about things down here.  You should have as little desire for this world as a dead person does. Your real life is in heaven with Christ and God.  And when Christ who is our real life comes back again, you will shine with him and share in all his glories." - Colossians 3:1-4 (TLB)

This woman - she's learning. Growing up and opening her hands to Him. A few more wrinkles and a bit more around the middle, but more of what He made her to be, through trial and fire and sifting and grace. She's not the know-it-all any more. The Good Father has humbled her enough to know better than to know it all. And what could the humble give? A little more than you might think. If you don't mind opening your hands.

I'll continue to offer what I know, which is mostly from what I read. By now you know What I read.  Part of my role [job?] is to teach, admonish, and advise. Much of it, actually. And so I will. Even when what I say isn't exactly what everyone wants to hear. Not because I know it all, but because I do know Him.

I love you, Dear Reader. I want to give you what I've been given, and that's love, grace, and the knowledge of His love. God's ways are good ways, and He is worthy of following. I'm thankful to be walking toward Him together.

Do you have a question too, Dear Heart? Please - don't be shy. I'll bet others are wondering too. All you have to do is reply in the comments section below, ask your question, and sign a creative signature.  Anonymity is encouraged. You can also email me at - just put "a little bird told me" in the subject line and I'll keep you anonymous.  Ask me about God, the Bible, how people tick, anything really (okay, that last one is a little scary, but I'm trusting God for answers so I'll leave it).  I hope to hear from you soon, Dear Reader! And when it comes up in your conversation, you can always say, "Well, a little bird told me ..." *wink*

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thankful Thursday {gifts that never stop}

"My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving." - Colossians 2:6-7 (Msg)

A day  and another, turning to months and seasons and years of babies turning into girls and boys, maturing into young men and women. An adolescent I have known as a boy walks past me and I gasp. When will I stop being shocked by this?

Hopefully never. Development is miraculous, and we're not human if we're not changing. This maturation just one of so many gifts that draw awe and thanks. My prayer for you, for me, for all of us - that we would open our hands to the Giver and open our mouths to give thanks.

Every day I count my blessings. Not because I have to or ought to or am begrudgingly obliged. No - and not because some religious teacher said I have to. I count because I breathe, and gratitude is the best coping I know in this world so full of His glory and so full of evil-sorrow. I write them because I don't want to forget, because it's what I do and how I work - in words. I count the gifts because I worship. I worship because the Giver gives gifts, not the least of which His Son hanging on a cross and Resurrected to redeem. If He gave Him, how will He not give me all I need and want? [see Romans 8:32] Indeed He will. Indeed He does. Here are a few of my recent counted gifts. Please feel free to share what you're thankful for, too, Dear Heart. Let us enter His courts with thanksgiving

- K asking me for a meet-up at the park. It's nice to be invited, Lord.

- for seeing my tears and feeling my pain, and the way You calm my fears an fill the holes of my loss. Again today.

- a nice afternoon with A, K, C, and R - new friends

- putting a puzzle together with a 3-year-old

- for providing a way out - the Way of Grace

- for filling me with the trust I need, when I know I need more

- walking at Roaring Run with the family, and talking to each of my children about heaven and eternity. Their intriguing ideas about what paradise will be like

- birds that look like frogs until they fly

- the scent of the the morning dew, the sight of mist rising before the dawning pink, and the voice of a sister - you flood my senses with blessing this morning

- that You call me Your friend, and show me how to be a great friend with a great love for You - by loving others (John 15:9-17)

- a visit with C&T (neighbors), and the privilege to pray healing for each of them, and listen to their testimony of Your goodness

- Sweet Betty, and her simple gratitude for life and her family

- pleasant colleagues at a new workplace

- for L, who checks up on me, and asks about my ministry, caring for me like You do

- encouragement from C to keep walking toward You, and not allow anyone or anything to rob me of the joy it is to serve You

- K sharing her funny, awkward, fun, nervous times of her first week of school. I'm so thankful she still tells me these things. I pray she always will.

- for leading J and I to the same chapter at the same time, and for getting us on the same page - literally - before we pray together

- brisk morning for jogging and connection with You

- Your Word - my delight, that which fills and stabilizes and comforts. 

Oh, Lord - how I love You. You give grace, joy, peace, gifts large and small. Every day, every moment, every breath. You are so worthy of my gratitude, for I owe it all to You alone. Would You please take my life, and make it worthy of You call, worthy of Your death and life, worthy of the Name by which I call myself Yours. Every gift is from You, regardless of the appearance or my attitude toward it at the time. I surrender myself to You. May You be praised through my words, deeds, thoughts, and speech. I want nothing more than to please You

Thank You, Jesus.

And you, Dear Reader - for what are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When Simple and Life Collide

This is the ninth month I reflect on what it means to live Simple - a word I received with reluctant but open hands when the calendar ripped down and the ball fell. It has continued to be a journey of ripping and falling.

Rip away the excess, tear apart false pretenses of what I "need."

Fall into His arms childlike, Simple. Release the sin and be stripped away. Those filthy rags dropping on the floor.

Until it's just bare me. 

Someone has accused me of having a personality disorder, I've sought Simple so voraciously. Yeah, that did hurt. But I'm pretty sure I'm still sane. It looks a bit loco from those who aren't here in the up-current against the flow of complications and distractions. People called Him crazy and demon-possessed too. Eh. I don't think there's anything intrinsically wrong with me, I just really only want one thing anymore. 

More of the Spirit's Presence.

And it does take focus, determination, and a willingness to let all else go by the wayside if that's what He says.

Agendas.  Ambitions. Accolades. ... I count it all rubbish compared to His love. This love I've received more deeply than ever. Not because He gave more, but because I opened my hands.

What surprises most is - all of this good communion with Him comes along with a great many trials I would never have chosen for myself if I'd had the choice. 

But I didn't. I don't choose how people treat me, despite my instructions to the contrary. And if He was despised, why shouldn't I as His follower expect the same? I haven't chosen one damaging fire after another, or one flood of busyness after the next, but isn't it in the fire and the flood that all cleansing happens?

And the singular piece left is Simple. 

When I stop and let Him wash away all of the sin-worry, the sin-fear, the sin-bitterness so entangled with self, I finally get  He finally gets me to the point - His love.

"The whole point of what we're urging is simply love - love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God." -1 Timothy 1:5 (Msg)

When He's close and I'm quiet in all this cleansing and gratitude, I'm stilled. Merely a breath will do. His whisper - close and gentle. Rebuke so kind and like a Father. Power that leaves me fear-struck, awe-struck, love-struck. This. Is. His. Presence. 

So enough.

So Simple. Just Him, this Lover-King-Daddy. Found in surrender. Sought in song. Met on pages like this one:

"If your revelation hadn’t delighted me so,
    I would have given up when the hard times came.
But I’ll never forget the advice you gave me;
    you saved my life with those wise words.
Save me! I’m all yours." -Psalm 119:92-94a (Msg)

And after tasting simply Him, how can I not want more?

Loving this song - lyrics, melody, rhythm ... all.  "And to know You is to love You, and to know so little else." [All Sons and Daughters - Oh How I Need You]

Do my thoughts still swim? Of course, and swirl too. Syria, back-stabbing, divorce, abuse, trafficking, Miley and Robin, school pictures, groceries, laundry, lunch, punctuality for work (still working on that one), church transition, arguments, tomatoes to make into salsa before they rot... yes, these thoughts can whirlpool in 1.8 seconds flat. 

But I'm also arriving at Simple faster too. When before it took ten deep breaths to calm this fluttering, a-panic bird, it recently takes only one or two. And the sight or thought of one word to brings me back to His loving presence - 


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Well, what do I do with this?

Thank you for grace, Dear Reader, as I've taken August as a hiatus from blogging. Sometimes a writer needs to leave thoughts unpublished, and I'm fully convinced that what I DON'T say is equally important as what I do. Words are heavy and sometimes take a long time to be weighed. Rest assured, my journal is full of thoughts, and some of them are forthcoming here in the nest. I'm thankful for your patience, and His.

At the dawn of September, I'm glad to be back here, writing again on Tuesday about justice and the fight against human trafficking. I hope to give you an update tomorrow on Simple, and of course I've been counting my gratitude, so Thursday will be another glorification of God as I share how He's given me new gifts. And, on Friday - I have a fun writing prompt, followed by "a little bird told me" on Saturday. So -without further ado - back in the saddle, back in the nest, back with you, Dear Heart.

When it comes to trafficking issues, I've noticed that (like many things) people have given over to debating instead of acting. Why do you suppose that is? Why do we like to argue, balk, discuss, and banter when there's so much to do? We could argue whether or not we should be talking about global trafficking before we address the issue here in North America, or we could debate what's more important - rescue or restoration. How about this - let's bicker about how effective organizations are or are not in the war against human trafficking. 

Or maybe ... we don't. Maybe we should just do what God has prepared for us to do.

Without all that chit chat. 

"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." -Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

The degradation of a human to a commodity is an atrocity. So what will we do about it today? 

Here are a few suggestions, but I hope you'll listen to Father before you take my advice. My hope is that those two align.

1. Pray with me. When you're driving and you hit a red light - pray for red light districts around the world, and "red light conditions." Choose a time to fast, and intercede for the oppressed, enslaved, imprisoned. Plead on their behalf. Use the Scripture such as this (for example) :

"[The slave is] worn out waiting for your rescue,
    but [she has] put [her] hope in your word.
82 [Her] eyes are straining to see your promises come true.
    When will you comfort [her]?
83 [She is] shriveled like a wineskin in the smoke,
    but [she has] not forgotten to obey your decrees.
84 How long must [we] wait?
    When will you punish those who persecute [us]?
85 These arrogant people who hate your instructions
    have dug deep pits to trap [her].
86 All your commands are trustworthy.
    Protect [her] from those who hunt [her] down without cause.
87 They almost finished [her] off,
    but I refused to abandon your commandments.
88 In your unfailing love, spare [her] life;
    then [we] can continue to obey your laws." -Psalm 119:82-88 (NLT)

2. Be part of a Search and Rescue Team. I've been following, supporting, blogging with the folks at The Exodus Road for nearly a year now, and I can testify that they are genuine, full of integrity, and passionate about freedom. They are making real rescue happen, and changing lives every day with the hope of God. Start getting reports of God's hand of grace in the lives of modern-day slaves today. You won't regret it. Want to be on my team? I'm with Bravo (in India), but you'll find three other teams domestically and abroad, so pray and DO. Rescue a slave today.

3. Speak up. The more people who know the evils of trafficking, the better. The more we stick our heads in the sand and self-focus, the worse. I don't know how else to put it. People matter to God, so they matter to me. It's worth whatever uncomfortable conversation I need to have. Freedom is available, but it's not free. I use my voice most often in print, but you must use your voice where God deems it most effective. And don't worry, He'll give you the words you need at the time you need it.