Tuesday, February 20, 2024

God's humor in stopping a killer king

I often feel like irrational behavior cannot be stopped. But irrational behavior can be stopped! Sometimes, the best way to stop it is comically. We would be wise in asking how we can pray for a humorous stop to irrational behavior.

As I have been reading, 1 Samuel 18 and 19, I noticed that King Saul's irrational behavior just kept spiraling. It started with jealousy then progressed to fear that kept escalating. At first he threw spears at David, then King Saul tried to use the Philistines, his servants, his son, his daughter, more spear throwing, and more Philistine battles to get David killed. To no avail. King Saul was out of control.

Then King Saul decided to send messengers to kill David. But God put a stop to their journey in the most unusual way. God allowed them to encounter a company of prophets. As they encountered prophets of God, suddenly, this band of killer messengers started prophesying. Imagine Saul getting word that his killer messengers were now praising, preaching, and praying instead of killing David!

So Saul sends a second band, but they also encounter the prophets and start prophesying. At this point you would think Saul would stop to question why, but not so. 

He sends a third band of messengers only to have them start prophesying, too. So what is a mad King to do but go himself? I imagine King Saul's heart attitude was "if you want a job done you just got to do it yourself!" 

Saul was so bent on his rage against David, he just knew the company of prophets were no problem for him. I visualize him moving through a wooded area only to enter the space where his band of prophesying messengers were humbled before God and the company of prophets ready to whip them all into action, but... What does he do when he encounters the prophets? He takes off his royal robes and starts prophesying, too. Would be killer becomes prophet!

By definition a prophet or to prophesy is someone who speaks by the inspiration of God. It is NOT about fortune telling. It is about praising, preaching, or praying under God's inspiration. 

We are not told what they said that day. But we do know that Saul was bent on killing David, BUT GOD DID NOT ALLOW IT. Instead God stopped King Saul's men and him in their tracks. God caused a humbling moment and caused them to take off their royal robes and surrender to God's inspiration in praise, preaching or prayer. What a powerful moment visualizing God's intervention and humor! 

This scene makes me laugh. Chapter 19 ends with a sarcastic question, "Is Saul among the prophets?" 

When I read true stories like this one and consider God's humor, it gives me greater insight into how to pray for those that serve as enemies. Why not pray the LORD thwart their efforts by turning them into prophets... even if it only lasts for a moment it can thwart their plans and allow the one under attack to flee safely.

I love that God is humorous! Don't you!

Monday, February 19, 2024

How far am I will to walk to serve my parent or my God?

How far am I willing to walk to serve the living God? Will I proclaim the truth even after a long journey? Will I remain steadfast even when those I am trying to help give me what I don’t need or what hasn’t been tested? Will I fight the good fight even when the enemy taunts daily the people of God? 

These are a few of the questions the LORD put to me recently as I studied David and Goliath’s battle. It was one of those mornings where I woke up in the wee hours of the morning and decided around 4:00 am to go ahead and get up because sleep was elusive. I had a very deep time with the LORD as I studied this battle and by 6:00 am I decided to take a nap until 7:00 am before I should get up to take care of things before an 8:30 am meeting. I went into the kitchen to make Greg’s famous eggs in the air fryer. He just discovered this method of frying an egg and I wanted him to show me. We set it up and I went to get ready while they cooked. When I came back into the kitchen the air fryer had tripped the fuse which turned off the refrigerator and probably a few other things. Greg set out to fix this. 

Then the fire alarms went off and would not stop. Apparently, the toaster downstairs burnt the toast. At this point, our stress levels were heightened. My goal for the morning was to take it slow and relax as I focused on quiet work because I was fasting for a shot in my spine to alleviate symptoms of spinal stenosis. The morning was anything but peaceful. I finally sat down after texting my boss three times to say I needed to delay our meeting when the phone rang. It was Mom. She was obviously having a hard time breathing. She needed me. The worker did not show up and Papa needed care. She tried, but it was too much. Without thinking I walked into the room and said, “I am about to get in a meeting.” Mom immediately felt attacked. She got defensive and then before I knew it we were in a fight. It was awful and honestly looking back stupidly funny. Once I sucked in my stupidity and did somewhat of a moment of let's get it together and remember your heart is good and so is mine, I set about helping Papa. As I helped Papa, the need to protect him and bless him immediately took over my heart and peace covered me. I knew how to handle that process, but when it comes to my mom being stressed I lost it pretty quickly. I am ashamed to say that I am not as quick to remember my role in serving. 

As I reflected on this moment, it occurred to me that I don’t have to walk six hours like David to do what the LORD asks of me. I only need to walk down a flight of stairs. But sometimes it is so hard to do the LORD’s will. As I studied David’s battle with Goliath I realized that David had to get up very early in the middle of the night to go take food for his brothers to be at the battle line at the start of the day. I looked it up. It is 30.7 km from Bethlehem to the Valley of Elah where the battle took place. David had to walk that distance which would take approximately six hours by foot. How far have you traveled to do an errand for your parent, your siblings, or a family member? 

David immediately went to where his brothers were on the battlefront and when he saw that Goliath was taunting the living God of Israel he was willing to speak up about it. Word got back to his older brother Eliab and Eliab actually called David evil for saying, “Who is this that defies the living God of Israel?” What David said was holy and righteous, but Eliab had a different perspective about his little brother. He assumed he was out for evil and just out to see the battle. David responded with a typical sibling whine, “What did I do now?” 

As if that was not enough, King Saul tried to put on David his own armor. Now, we must remember that we are told that Saul stands a full head taller than all of the people in the land. This man was not small and David was but a youth. Anyone in their right mind would know that his armor would not fit and would not be wise to use in a battle. King Saul should have had that armor on and stood in the front line to fight for his people, but instead, he was somewhere removed enough to offer his armor to a young boy. I love David’s response, “I cannot use this because it is not tested!” David was wise enough to know that in a battle you need to be comfortable with what you take to the battlefront. You cannot wear someone else’s armor without knowing how your body will respond to it. A wise person slows down and remembers what has been effective in the past. 

David faced so much in that morning, but David kept his eyes on what mattered. He knew that the living God of Israel was where victory happened. He alone was the one who would deliver them. He was willing to walk a long journey to honor his dad and brothers, but even more so the living the God of Israel. He was willing to speak up when everyone else cowered. He was willing to press in even when his brother called him evil. He was willing to say, “No!” when King Saul tried to dress him in his armor. David knew that the battle belonged to the living God. He alone gave victory. He trusted God above all else. He was willing to risk his life and take on a giant because his belief in God’s presence and victory had proven faithful in the past. 

I had to inhale and exhale for a moment as I pondered the story. Sometimes, I think it is hard to walk down a flight of stairs to honor my parents. I focus on circumstances like a blown fuse, fire alarm, body stress, emotional words, etc. instead of the living God and His presence. 

I have a lot to learn from David. I am enjoying studying David because I truly see someone who is in the middle of all the stuff of life really trying to honor God just like me. He was a kid seeking to honor his dad, a child of God seeking to fight for His honor, a younger sibling putting up with big brothers, and a citizen trying to honor his king. I realize that my battle is not against a giant like Goliath, but I do feel the pressure and frustration of circumstances and need the reminder that the living God is present. He delivers. He gives victory. He saves. Even when a morning routine is not what you expected. He is present. I want David’s strength of belief to be evident in me even when I only have to walk down a flight of stairs to serve. Don’t you!

Yes, LORD! Amen!

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Dwell and Delight

Greg and I are delighting in the birds as they suddenly ascend for their morning feast. We cannot help but pause. If they see us move they fly away just as rapidly as they appeared. 

Don't you know that God delights when we come to feast on the good food HE provides for us!

When we truly want to dwell with engagement, it will always be filled with delight. 

God desires us to dwell richly with Him and to know the delight of permanence of presence with Him. Even if we fly in suddenly and unexpectedly, He delights in watching us feast. Even if we fly away because we see Him moving. He delights in us. He always longs for us to know the blessing of His good food. He wants us to settle in and enjoy Him.

Shalom y'all!

Sunday, February 11, 2024

The sacred trust of awakening someone's gift

There is a sacred trust when it comes to awakening a spiritual gift in someone. When my daughter was little and started dancing, she would dance and twirl all over our living room, delighting in the freedom of movement and expression from her inner soul. Greg and I would watch Mikayla twirl and whirl for hours celebrating the beauty of her childlike freedom. 

As Mikayla grew older, she moved from our living room to dancing in studios learning how to put form and message to her movement that matched a rhythm to music so that a message could be communicated. This was when she encountered the minions of ballet. They were fierce and persistent. "You are not good enough." "You are not strong enough." "You are not pretty enough." "You are not skinny enough." We watched our daughter dance and grow in movement and discover the importance of precision, but we also saw her lose her childlike freedom. We prayed with her. We fought this mental and communal battle alongside her. Praying she not lose her childlike expression. We finally saw her give up on her favorite form of worship in defeat to the lies of the enemy.

BUT GOD then opened a door by a dear friend Bethany Loux, "You should meet my friend Erin Jensen. She is opening a studio." The woo of the dance pulled Mikayla in. It was at BLOOM that we watched our daughter awaken again the childlike freedom to move for the sake of worship. 

Then Ali Darr invited Mikayla to join Evergreen and dance in Gomer, then Esther, then Eve, and now Mary. Last night, as I watched Mikayla dance, I saw our little daughter twirling and moving with the joy of someone doing the dance for the simple sake of worship. I was undone. Her portrayal of Jesus held the childlike confidence that felt free and loved.

My nose burns, and my eyes cloud with tears because it is a sacred thing when someone awakens the gifts in someone so they can freely use them. I saw my little girl now a grown woman unleash her gift with joy unfettered by the minions of ballet.

I saw the trust of young women feeling the freedom to move, bless, and yes tell the story of Mary so beautifully. I have watched every show as many times as possible each year. I have watched them grow in ability, friendship, and as storytellers through dance. The one thing that blesses me most is the freedom to use their gift. 

Thank you to all who make it possible for honoring the sacred trust of awakening the gift of dance at Bloom, Evergreen, and Seed Company. I love this community of faith.

Photo credit from Evergreen Instagram

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Scared or Sacred

When Greg and I watch shows, we always have the subtitles scrolling. I read them even when I can hear or know the language. I love having them scroll across the screen and miss it when we don't have it. 

Last night the word sacred was in a sentence and for a split second I read scared. I thought, "Oh my goodness. The difference in the English language for sacred and scared is the simple flip of two letters!"

Oh my goodness. Isn't that true about our lives as well. A sacred moment can be flipped upside down with a simple flip of belief. When I am scared, I allow fear to rule my life, but when I focus on the sacred, you know that which is good, right, and holy; it transforms the moment! It transforms me.

In that split second, I had this incredibly deep insight. 

Where do I allow scared to be in my focus instead of sacred? 

Now, that is worth pondering and flipping around when needed.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Questions Jesus Asked

When our children were young Greg used to ask us, "Have you asked a good question today?" I confess at first I thought he was asking me this because I wasn't being thoughtful, but I realized over time as I matured that he asked this because questions have the power to help us learn. He had heard someone ask this question and was so moved by it that he started asking us as a family. 

When I went to seminary, I was taught how to ask good questions when I studied, but it was Dr. John Dent, my editor at Lifeway Publishing that taught me in such a way that I caught the power of a good question.

Then one day I heard Amy Orr Ewing, a female Apologist, say that Jesus asked 153 questions. I had to look them up. I started searching the gospels for every question that Jesus asked. I discovered so much. But the thing that stuck out to me the most was that Jesus used questions because questions reveal what is in the heart! 

I took 82 of those questions and created this video for a speaking engagement for Grace University. I put them in chronological order so that His questions will scroll based on when He would have spoken them. I was so surprised because as I watched the video I noticed that Jesus' questions scrolling actually provide the plan of salvation and that if a person watches the video with the intent to hear they could believe in Jesus just through His questions. 

Yesterday, I was talking with Dr. Tom Steffen about the questions Jesus asked and told him about this video. So, I decided to go and watch again today. This time what surprised me was how worshipful it is to just sit, watch, and listen as the video scrolls. Tears started rolling down my face at the beauty of a question simply spoken. 

My hope is that you will take the time to just sit still and watch the video. Read, listen, and receive whatever God might speak to you through the questions Jesus asked. Which one resonated in your heart today? I would love to know!

Shalom, y'all!

Monday, January 22, 2024

Willingness

Do you ever struggle with your will?  I know I do! The other day I had a care worker walk into my house. I had never seen her before. The care workers have clear instructions to enter downstairs through the garage to my parents quarters. 

I was so surprised by someone entering my home as if they belonged. She was a sub and very young. She never made eye contact or introduced herself.  She was about to start walking through the whole house in snow covered cowboy boots. I confess fright and anger were very close to unleashing on her. 

I knew I needed to let Mom make the decision on this person so I willingly held my thoughts at bay. Mom found out she had not eaten. She asked for food for her. So, I went to make her a sandwich. I know we need to model the gift of hospitality. So even though I did not approve of her mannerisms, I willingly served as mom asked. 

Once she was gone I went down to ask Mom how it went. Let's just say we will never use her again. We were all shocked by her behavior because most care givers are so willing to help and be of service. She was too young and honestly did not have the will to be a servant. This is crucial in a caregiver.

As I am choosing descriptive words based on John 10:1-18 to describe the Good Shepherd to help me examine shepherd leadership. Today, I am meditating on the word WILLING.

WILLING is an eagerness to help or to do something with prompt obedience. It is done because the person wants to, not because they have to. 

Jesus was willing to give His life for us. No one made Him. He did it of His own free will.

As a leader in my home, I find myself often in moments where my willingness might be called upon. This was one of those. I have to determine in my heart to will to honor someone that might not act honorably like this care giver. I might need to willingly obey my mom like in the moment of making a sandwich. Honestly, that part was easy. I love serving my family. It was so much harder when the expectation and assumption of how the care worker should behave was not met. I did not have an eager will to serve her. Ugh.

Yet, isn't it the very ones that don't meet our expectations or assumptions that we need to be willing to serve? Think of the fact that Jesus died for our sins. How many still fight against him? Yet, He gave willingly and because He did great blessings come to those that receive. 

How do you struggle with a willingness to serve?

Monday, January 15, 2024

Stages of Life & Producing Good Fruit


I saw this picture on the National geographic page and I instantly saw the stages of life, too. But, I saw the physical and spiritual stages of humanity... me and you.

The budding stages are birthed through childhood when we are just beginning to form and about to reveal our personality. This stage just wants to burst out and get started. 

The flowering stage is the young adult. When our youth, vitality and beauty is in full bloom. We honestly think this is it as so many come to us for our nectar. Eventually, our petals get knocked off and we don't feel so beautiful anymore. We don't like our blooms being plucked because it effects our beauty.

The second budding stages are the middle aged years where our youth and vitality begin to fade, but we know we have good fruit but the stage of life we are in has hidden our beauty again. We think we have lost our purpose and beauty, but we are actually about to bear our most beautiful fruit. We must just keep waiting and growing. In this stage, if we are wise we lose the arrogance of our youth and grow in humility. 

But the truth be known that the various seasons we have journeyed are what make us gloriously fruitful in our elder years. This is when we can be plucked by anyone and bear good fruit. 

The last stage is full of good fruit that is meant to be plucked and eaten to nourish the next generation of blooms. This stage rejoices at their fruit being plucked and eaten. This stage doesn't mind giving its fruit away because it knows this is how to yield a greater harvest. If we are wise we will fill our lives with those in this stage and eat as much of their fruit as we can.

Whatever season you are in, each season has its own beauty and purpose. We need each birthing stage for good fruit to nourish those around us. Each stage has its highs and lows. But one thing remains in each stage, without the Vine or the Branch it dies. 

Just as these buds are beautiful so are you right now where you are in your stage of life. Embrace it and learn the lessons from it and be patient as they are revealed. This is how good fruit is born.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Types of Shepherds

When I take the time to slow down and really meditate on a passage, I start to ask more questions and see things I easily overlooked. Like, Why does Jesus say, "thief and robber" to describe those that are not the good shepherd? (John 10:2)

In my simple thinking, I thought of them as the same thing, but Adam Clark Commentary had a thought that caught me.

A thief is cunning and does it secretly.

A robber is aggressive and not afraid to do so publicly even if it turns to violence.

Now imagine a leader that does not care about the people. It is harder to discern the thief because they do their work in secret. It is hidden so you don't know who or how they are hurting the flock. They are more manipulative in order to get their gain.

A thief can turn robber when pressed, but usually the thief prefers the thrill of secret manipulations than outward aggressions. Maybe they like the appearance of being good.

While the robber just wants what they want and will do whatever it takes. They love the thrill of adrenaline and getting away with it. They don't care what you think.

No wonder sheep run. 

No wonder it is important we know the Good Shepherd. He gives life and He gives it abundantly. He sacrifices for His sheep. He provides good pasture and gives freedom to move about. He knows you by name and calls you by name. You know He is trustworthy in meeting your needs and giving you more than you would ask for. There are no secrets and no violence. He cares.

What kind of shepherd are you following?  Remember, shepherds represent leaders. Consider all areas of your life. 

Here is the deal. We cannot know the Good Shepherd if we do not spend time with Him to know His voice and know His character. Once you know, you know. You do not want to follow those that want to steal, kill, or destroy.

How do you spend time with the Good Shepherd? Well, reading the book of John is a great place to start. Personally, as a woman I love the book of Luke because it has women stories. This is why theologians refer to it as the Women's Gospel. You might consider reading the Psalms and Proverbs.  When I am hurting or in grief I read the Psalms so I can know how to talk to God. When I am struggling with people I read Proverbs so I can better understand how to interact with humans. The point is that the Bible helps you to know the character of God. When you know and understand His character you will recognize His voice and when it is a thief or a robber.

We must always ask ourselves questions, too. What kind of shepherd am I? Do I draw people to the Good Shepherd or am I doing it for me? 

Kind of convicting!

Shalom y'all!

Monday, January 8, 2024

The Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18)

As I study King David as a shepherd boy to shepherd king, I am studying what Scripture has to say about shepherds. I am asking God to give me 4 or 5 words that will best define a good shepherd that I can use as a starting point to pursue.

Ezekiel 34 provided a solid warning to shepherds on what God is upset about in how shepherds are shepherding their flocks. God is very upset with shepherds that only feed themselves and prey on their flock.

While John 10:1-18 provides us the example of what Jesus has to say about the good shepherd. 

I have chosen these five words to describe a good shepherd based on Jesus' teaching.

1. Know(n) = Intimate relationship built on communication (listens, speaks, hears, calls, leads, follows).
2. Sacrifices life (lays down life, gives willingingly, and entry point for salvation).
3. Willing = Freedom to choose both for the Good shepherd and the sheep
4. Blesses = Good pasture, salvation, life, abundant life, flock/family, belonging
5. Builds His flock = future, purpose

A bad shepherd is not known, listened to, or followed by the Good Shepherd's sheep because bad shepherds...

1. Are not known
2. Do not build relationships
3. Do not sacrifice
4. Do not bless
5. Do not build community
6. Do not give freedom.

Bad shepherds steal, kill, and destroy because it is all about taking and not giving. They do not care.

What should I do as a sheep? 

I need to...
1. Listen to the Good Shepherd.
2. Follow the Good Shepherd.
3. Know and be known by the Good Shepherd.
4. Receive the blessings of good pasture and abundant life.
5. Become a part of the flock and enjoy what it means to belong.

A Good Shepherd provides safe pasture and serves for the benefit of the flock. I love how in this passage we are shown that the Father gave freedom to Jesus to choose to be the Good Shepherd. Jesus willingly chose to be our Good Shepherd. In verse 9 did you notice that Jesus allows the sheep the freedom to go in and out of the good pasture. It is a choice. Just as the Father gave Jesus a choice, Jesus gives us a choice to go in and out of the good pasture.  

I love the beauty that is revealed in a relationship between the Shepherd and His sheep. This is something worth basking in and pondering on both the spiritual level, but also on the leadership level. 

Do you know the Good Shepherd? 
Do you know what the Good Shepherd has done for you?
Have you received what the Good Shepherd has provided?
How would you be described as a shepherd (leader)?