Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Washing Cycle Won't Stop! ("Its My Turn to Fight")

Before one actually visits them, everyone tends to think of their favorite countries as one grand Disneyland filled with national monuments and historical treasures conveniently laid out for easy viewing, when what they really are filled with, of course, is people going to work, laundromats and places to buy rat poison." - Bette Midler

Our local laundromat is falling apart. I mentioned in an earlier post it was dilapidated, but convenient for us. On a recent visit to wash a couple loads, I encounter the manager endeavoring to repair a broken down washer while her mother placed several bath towels on the floor to limit the spread of water from said machine to the rest of the business. Oh, if I only had the means . . . I'd move away and buy our own washer and dryer.

We noticed a new laundromat a few miles away from us in Jacksonville. My wife repeatedly mentioned it and said it could be a pleasant alternative to my current choice. I've frequented it several times lately. It is new, bright and full of relatively new equipment. Its a few cents more expensive and further away from home, but I've yet to step over standing water or make careful a selection of a washer or dryer to avoid ones on the fritz.

After a difficult day at work, I gathered our laundry and detergent and a sandwich bag full of quarters and headed out already fatigued to the shiny new laundromat in Jacksonville. Upon arriving, I carried in the two laundry baskets full of clothes, towels and our shower curtain which needed a bath, navigated past rolling baskets and clientele to make my selection of three washers in a row.

Two of the machines used to wash towels and the shower curtain finished their cycles. I placed the clean curtain in the car and the towels in a dryer, inserted quarters and turned it on. The third washer was the temperamental one. It stayed in the washing cycle. I couldn't interrupt it, stop it or unload it.

There was a phone number painted on the front door glass of the laundromat. Customers were invited to use it in case of an emergency. I decided this constituted an emergency for me. I certainly wanted to retrieve my underwear and April's work shirts and not leave them to spin in that machine in perpetuity.

I finished my initial call to the answering service for the Continental Laundromats at 5:40 p.m. A technician was promised to arrive soon to assist me. I finally left after 9 p.m. without retrieving clothes still stuck in the wash cycle. I left several voicemails getting more frustrated as the hours ticked by. One of the last voicemails finally received a response. In a text, I was informed the attendant for this laundromat was out-of-town until the next day. Calls have been made to find an available technician who could come to Jacksonville. One was found in Albertville (ironically) and was on their way to my location. I responded with a voicemail stating I would return early the next morning so tell the tech to leave the clothes in the open washer for me to collect and dry on my own.

The next morning, I returned after 7 to find the machine still in the washing cycle and locked tight. As I stood watching my clothes continuing to flip and flop inside, a customer loaded the machine next to mine. He glanced first at the machine and then at me.

"This machine hasn't stopped washing my clothes since 5 o'clock yesterday," I said. The gentleman pushed the stop button on the front of the machine and asked if that would work. I said it stops momentarily but goes back to washing in a second or two. I then called the answering service to report the machine hadn't been touched apparently by a tech of any kind overnight.

Before I completed my message on their voicemail the customer I just talked to informed me the door was open. I abruptly ended the message with an exclamation and something about not needing their help after all. The gentleman informed me he held the stop button down and pressed on the lever on the door. It clicked open. I thanked him graciously. He said it was nothing. He was a problem solver at work, and this is what he did everyday.

Though this was a crazy circumstance, I never became unhinged. I didn't pray about it either until finishing the third voicemail. After that, they started updating me about the nearest technician, and when I could expect them. I was tired from a difficult work day. As I shared in the last post, fatigue often has its way with me emotionally Despite my day, I stayed calm and peaceful though stern and direct on the voicemail messages. I simply wanted to make sure somebody knew I was waiting for technical support.

It hasn't been lost on me, however, that the load in the washer was just April's and my clothes. Clothes are coverings, and in the prophetic, a covering is often akin to anointing for ministry. They were thoroughly cleansed. Our coverings, however, are not usable because they're locked away, and we can't get them. We need help.

It was all fixed by a guy who chose to use the washer right next to mine (one I used the day before) though the whole business was absent any other customers or laundry. This guy chose to be next to my machine. He wasn't asked to assist, but this kind of thing is what he does in his job, helps fix situations. He simply opened it maybe because the cleaning was over.

While at the laundromat in the evening, I continued to ask in my soul and spirit what this situation could be telling me. What's the message parabolically or metaphorically? What's God telling me in this?

I first thought for several days afterward it all had to do with the thorough cleaning of our coverings for the days ahead. I was fine with that until earlier today, knowing I was finishing this post and completing this triad of "Its My Turn to Fight" posts, a thought came to me I don't believe was mine. I thought this story could illustrate how we get back on the path of ministry and head back to Sand Mountain. The washer was not opened how I expected it to be. Maybe we move on from here not how I think we will be. A tech never came though I badgered them without hesitation. A guy came out of nowhere, used the machine next to mine in an empty laundromat and said he does this kind of thing everyday. There will be resolution in ways we cannot foresee or expect. I find great hope in this.

We live in a time of militancy fueled by opinion, speculation, prejudice and fears. Plenty of people are looking for a fight to join. Stupid social media is full of such. Biased politicians and news sources want these same people on their sides as they head for ratings sweeps and primaries and general elections. All this coupled with the church joining sides and being as steadfast in what they believe as any bigoted bar stool patron sitting in a pub shouting at an umpire on t.v. making a call against his hometown team. Is it any wonder April and I have found it difficult to hear voices in or outside the church that speak our language and feed our souls these days?

I heard myself say in that dream weeks ago, "Its my turn to fight."  The question remains the same - What's the battle?  We've grown tired of the fight, a fight to oppose the spiritual opponent deterring our hope and attacking our faith with doubts, fears, anger and diversions.  

When I have a thought outside myself enlivening my spirit by imparting to me the relevant possibility that resolution will come in ways I haven't conceived like a "Fixer" coming in disguised as a customer, I can believe the ultimate fight is not up to me.  I'll fight in a weekend skirmish and learn what fatigue can still do to me, but the fight may not be barraging heaven for what's been promised like making a dozen voicemail calls to get a technician that never comes.  

Maybe the washing cycle ran for over 14 hours to illustrate we've been here too long, and the ultimate answer will not come from sending heaven voicemails relentlessly.  It may come from simple assistance coming alongside and doing what I didn't think or know to do.  

April sat down this morning and asked the Lord for scripture for her day.  Matthew 5: 5-6 came.

Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.

Maybe its not meek to say verse five sounds like us, but I believe we're due.  Verse six was given to me back in Albertville during a Tuesday night prayer service.  We've wanted more for so long; not to simply be fat and sassy but to seek the manifestation of right-standing in relationship with God by being willing vessels of his will in the world.  

These verses came after I read while still in the bed a Facebook post from Bethel TV:

When you try to fight for something that you receive from inheritance, you get exhausted.  Sometimes you only receive when you sit down, be quiet and learn how to be a son or a daughter. - Bill Johnson

The lesson of the parable of the washing cycle that wouldn't stop is not to send enough voicemails to get somebody's attention to send a tech.  The washing cycle was stuck to illustrate this has gone on too long.  The answer, the relief, the opening of a locked door will come in ways we haven't conceived nor manipulated into existence.  Well then, what's the fight?  Maybe Memorial Day weekend was it.

We're tired of fighting the big fight.  We're a daughter and a son.  We surrendered into the hands of a good, good Father long ago.  We trust and love him.  We have an inheritance.  Our hunger and thirst is satisfied and will yet be satisfied still.  Exhaustion can only be relieved by resting.  So, we rest and trust.  Alleluia.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Nightwatch ("Its My Turn to Fight")

The critical matter for me is the fight.  I've agreed to participate in a prayer team for a Chrysalis flight in May, and this is an opportunity for spiritual warfare, but could this be the extent of the fight?  I don't know for sure. -- from "Its My Turn to Fight"

In April, I wrote a post describing a dream I had where I spoke the phrase, "Its My Turn to Fight."  The first part of the dream described a confrontation that wasn't my fight.  The second half portrayed a set of circumstances which aroused me with courage and determination to wage a battle I was meant to fight.

I shared responsibility with a partner to intercede overnight for three consecutive nights on a Chrysalis flight on Memorial Day weekend at a Presbyterian camp in Tennessee.  We were to pray for the young men (caterpillars) who attended for their spiritual enrichment and for whatever else the Lord would direct us.  Doesn't sound too militant or combat oriented, does it?  Something has compelled me to pray when I've committed myself to petition heaven all day or all night.  Some circumstance, condition effecting people needs attention.  Such devotion is first motivated by compassion for people, stranger or loved one.  Love is always the first thing.

One of the clergy in a leadership position, a spiritual director, looked at me early on the first day and said he didn't envy me.  He found it difficult to pray over an extended length of time.  After he made his petition, he thought there wasn't anything left to convey.  Praying all night long was beyond what he could imagine himself doing.

There was a plan I already knew to implement overnight.  I told him I've learned to spend time worshiping initially followed by interceding, petitioning for specifics - people, places, things.  Following petitions, I stop and listen for what the Lord might say.  Its a cyclical thing for me.  He appreciated the explanation.  "It must be a gift," he said.  I said it might be.

There's a direction one should expect to go in when praying over lengths of time.  I prefer following the Good Shepherd rather than coaxing God along a path I've chosen.  Worshiping first coats the atmosphere of one's heart to pursue and expect to encounter the Lord's presence in prayer.  When I stop to listen, I expect to hear or sense a scripture verse, the face of someone, a name, a song, a situation, a simple word.  These sign posts prompt specific, targeted intercession.  I'll then stop to listen again.  Perhaps I'll then go to my prayer language (glossolalia) and pray mysteries.

Ministry, either formally occupying a position of authority and leadership in a church or buying a hungry person lunch because you were moved with compassion in an instant, begins with love and is carried along by knowing who you are in God. It is first a relationship with the living God you encounter regularly either inside or outside community.

In such encounters, you learn little by little who you are, a child of the living God.  The further along you go on this path of self awareness and intimacy in relationship you find out you're called to do something in your life.  For me on this weekend, I simply understood I was called to do what I was prepared to do, to intercede in prayer.  No fear or apprehension.  This is when ministry is actually fun.

To put flesh on the bones of my rhythmic plan of praying overnight, the first night there were scriptures that came to me and particular phrases became touchstones upon which I'd focus my faith and petitions.  Zechariah 3:7 - a shallow yes was a problem for Israel - probably a problem for the young men in the conference room, as well.  Matthew 8:7 - Jesus said, 'I will go and heal him.'  I prayed and believed Jesus would reach the shallow believer where he was and heal him.

Phrases and impressions linked to love fueled more prayer and intercession.  God's presence was unmistakable.  The Lord's blessing and grace was in the room with us.  It was glorious.

There was intercession for concerns and fears others had, as well.  Written requests came to the prayer chapel in daylight.  Volunteers serving these young men, clergy providing pastoral care all brought both testimonies and petitions to us to celebrate with them or to join their faith in prayer for the Lord to intervene.  It seemed to me the prayer chapel became a launching pad of specific requests directed to the Lord and artillery rounds directed at the enemy's feeble fortifications erected around the hearts of these wonderful young men.

Our last night began with hearing testimonies of what had happened and was still happening among them.  Once everyone left the prayer chapel except Angel and me, we talked about church stuff which moved to my ranting over denominational junk, old church battles, and pastoral pressures.  I was tired, weak and susceptible to shallow, faithless, loveless talk - a monologue of war stories of congregations unable to be reached by my feeble efforts to lead, of a denomination with an agenda of survival, and of a frustrated Charismatic pastor in a mainline church.

I began praying not in praise for what had happened among the young men (we prayed in agreement all would have Ah-ha moments in God a couple nights before), but to insist that the climax hadn't happened yet.  There didn't need to be a coasting to the finish line.  There still needed to be a sweet surrender.  There were still hidden hallways deep within some where shame was hidden.  There still needed to be honest confession and abandonment to a holy God.

My own fatigue exposed one of my blind spots.  At one point late that night, knowing the last day's talks and activities would have to do with sharing with the world in the days to come the grace of God they've received, I declared, They can't love the world if they can't love themselves.  

When I went down that path in prayer it wasn't gracious nor merciful.  It felt like an indictment.  In fact, I felt indicted.  My own struggle in pastoral ministry was not being compassionate toward others because I didn't love myself.  I knew who the institutional church told me I was.  I too easily forgot or ignored or discredited who God told me I was.  So much of that weight on my shoulders in the past was the myth of never being able to please my parents or God.  Anger was always the result, anger toward others, myself and Father God.  Fatigue was having its way with me that last night.

As morning was dawning, I felt ashamed.  I openly repented so Angel could hear me.  I followed that with thanking God for the Ah-ha moments the guys had experienced.  It was the work of Holy Spirit.  Surrender had taken place. We'd heard the stories. There were climaxes in God that had taken place, also. There were testimonies. This new day would be a glorious first day in God for many.  Alleluia.

I prayed for more sweet surrenders of hidden shame and brokenness, but not from guilt, but from the relentless, reckless grace and mercy of a loving God finding his family.  My realization of my own hidden shame was familiar to me. It was a blind spot in my life.  Fatigue with rehashing past failures reopened the wound.  Missing two nights sleep can have its effect on anybody.

Sometimes prayer can be a looking glass.  You can see what you think and believe of God, and what you think and believe of yourself.  I encourage you to engage honestly in communication with God without abandoning love for the sake of expressing old fears and frustrations.

There was a plan I was comfortable with and willing to follow in the nightwatch; however, it can still be a battle.  We didn't go looking for devils.  We worshiped and prayed together out of love and faith.  There were breakthroughs in the lives of several of the caterpillars.  Things hidden and forgotten were exposed in the light of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  There was healing, renewal, confession, forgiveness and great joy.  Alleluia.  But there was a price to pay.

For me, and I can only speak for me, the simple reality of fatigue made it easy for me to share what still hurts and what can still effect my spirit in the negative.  I entered the weekend so certain of my responsibilities and skills.  I neared the end sleepless and so certain others carried shame from personal failures and disappointments like I still do.  That bled over into prayer for beautiful young men kissed by the Spirit while I insisted they should know the shame I still struggle with when my defenses are down.

I can't say for sure the battle was won.  War isn't easily evaluated by wins and loses.  I do believe God can win with any hand.  The grace of God encountered the young men on New Covenant Community Chrysalis Flight #47.  Jesus was exalted and glorified.  Lives were impacted by love and truth.  New paths and destinies in God were established.  Families were forever changed.  Sounds victories.

In addition, scares were reexamined, memories of past hurts and failures were pulled out again, some unnecessary blame was poured out only to stain a room with a putrid scent of decay.  Exhuming what was long since dead was a graceless task.  It was the work of a tired warrior who needs healing from a minor form of post-traumatic stress from wars long since ended.

It may have been my turn to fight.  I didn't expect to be wounded by self-infected gunfire.

Great God, I thank you for your presence to undergird and sustain us as we interceded for the young men of Flight #47.  It was your fatherly care and steadfast love that made all the difference in the lives of so many.  Alleluia.  I also thank you for being merciful to one son who was so certain of his plan but unaware his old sorrows can still inflict unnecessary pain and corrupt faithful efforts to be an instrument in your hand.  I have confessed, repented and returned to your presence with joy.  May the prayers raised in faith and love still be seeds of righteousness and glory to bring about great fruit in the lives of those for whom they were expressed.  I love and trust you.  Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Waiting Is Over

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us' . . .
Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, written on the front and on the back. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets. 
-- Exodus 32: 1a, 15-16

Sitting, writing, watching our clothes and towels rotate in four washers in the laundromat in Jacksonville, I'm meditating on the Old Testament lesson in The Daily Office this morning.  It spoke to me.  

April dreamed of a woman (Holy Spirit) passing to a world famous prophet a box with five things written on a single piece of paper to then pass to me through a car window is what connects me to this lesson.  It connects, as well, to a word I received from a person who prayed for me at Bethel Atlanta a couple years ago - five downloads coming to me.

The Hebrew children believed Moses wasn't coming back from the mountain.  They coerced Aaron to make them an idol, a golden calf for them to worship.  They couldn't wait anymore.  They needed to get on with their spiritual focus and to be like every other nation, to worship an idol, a visible deity that didn't frighten them.  They couldn't wait anymore.

We've been waiting for years.  We actually believe we've been transitioning from a denominational mindset to our destiny in a fresh anointing for a new day promised.  Alleluia.  We've waited for Jesus to step through the battle and unlock the door we're meant to walk through.

We've waited, and, being grasped by the shoulders in worship one Saturday evening, Jesus came and turned us to face north from where we came, and where our calling directs us.

We've waited, and Jesus came again in our spirits.  April could see him walking on a path with a sword set on his right shoulder as he strolled nonchalantly.  She then felt a tap on her shoulder during worship and turned expecting to see him.  That same evening she believed she heard a voice tell her the waiting is over.  We've waited.  Now, its over.

God's wrote the ten words on both sides of the tablets.  Moses is the the one who brought them down.  He was the one meant to accomplish the task.  If they waited patiently and didn't rebel through idolatry, things might have turned differently.

In February, the single word impression, baptism, came to me during worship.  I believed a fresh baptism awaited us upon entering the new day of anointing and purpose in ministry.  

Upon reading of Jesus' baptism in Matthew several days ago, I felt the impression again.  This was our baptism.  When Jesus told John he should be baptized to fulfill all righteousness, in attending and worshiping at the three churches we have since leaving Albertville, we've fulfilled what was right, as well.  Its what we were supposed to have done.  To mark our time here, we worshiped, contributed to and prayed for the three congregations.  The time has now come to move on just like it was for Jesus to begin his earthly ministry with baptism, and the Holy Spirit descending upon him.

We waited through worshiping God and loving God's people in three separate settings over four years.  We waited without surrendering and consequently diverting spiritual passions to worship an idol, to abandon a calling.  No, we waited because God is faithful.

I believe, with the waiting being over, this lesson tells me the words from God, from Holy Spirit like April's dream, are due at any time.  God wrote them in Exodus in a medium to be read, cherished and followed.  The waiting is over.  The calling is about to be manifested.  The words are due to be delivered from the hands of God.  So much is at hand right now.

The other laundromat I've frequented has grown so dilapidated.  Many of the washers and dryers are broken down.  The atmosphere is one of hopelessness and failure.  Its quite convenient for me, but there's no attraction. I know they miss our quarters.  I don't know if I'll ever return there since patronizing a much newer and pleasant laundromat. Waiting for a better option is no longer necessary.  

Monday, April 16, 2018

"Its My Turn to Fight"

Upon hearing of his decision to enter the corn, Ray looked at Terrance and asked, "Are you gonna write about it?"  Terrance without a thought, shrugged his shoulders and responded, "Of course I'm gonna write about it.  That's what I do."  Ray said in return, "Good."

 Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle 
-- Psalm 144: 1
This verse captivates my imagination every time I read it.  Fingers along with hands can be trained for battle and war.  The psalmist attributes to the Lord such preparation.  I can't imagine myself ever engaging in battle with the use of my hands as weapons; however, my use of a keyboard or a pen in journaling to record the works or words of the Lord to inspire worship or repentance could be attributed to God's training of my fingers for his purposes. 

This psalm was part of my scripture reading one day in March.  Early that same morning, I dreamed ironically of warfare and weapons.  

I was in a big office room full of desks and Facebook logos (?).  There were windows on three sides of the room.  I could see the building was nestled in a pine tree forest on the side of a mountain.  The room could have been a lecture hall, but it was full of office desks.  I was there with a man who was a colleague.  A third man was accusatory of us and our female boss.  He spoke violently toward her.  My partner told him that was enough.  He took out a magnum revolver and hit him in the forehead handle butt.  We both knew we had a legal obligation to report his violent words and hold him accountable.

My partner now looking like Al Pacino told him to sit at the desk which was at the highest level of all the desks in the room.  He told the man to type a letter of apology and explaining his inappropriate words directed toward our boss.  The man couldn't type.  He took company stationary, paused and wrote a simple message.  "I quit."  He signed it and left the room.  

The two of us grew anxious.  We gathered our things in order to leave, as well.  We were uneasy because we felt he'd seek reprisal against us as we left the building and went to the parking lot with the sun setting.  

The dream then shifted to the bottom of the mountain.  April, her mother and me rode rafts in a pool flowing off of a larger body of water.  April said we had food for breakfast but nothing after that.  Her mother said we were familiar with such circumstances, but we'd be alright.  

I then watched in my head a news report or documentary about shepherds who herded animals on that mountain.  They were admired for their work and devotion to their tasks.  The story then began to document the killing of many of the shepherds.  They were involved in a revolution. Their adversaries had shot them.  The weapons the shepherds carried were vintage World War I era rifles.

This story instilled passion in me.  I then said, "It's my turn to fight."  Ascending the mountain quickly, I possessed a machine gun which was superior weaponry than what the shepherds carried. Moving up the mountain briskly and without fatigue, I sought to engage the enemy.  I then came upon an Hispanic man in a blue checkered shirt.  I wasn't sure if he was my enemy.  He smiled at me and there the dream ended.

Now, to the interpretation.

Two days later, I had a phone conversation with someone from a church looking for a new pastor.  This was the second conversation I had with someone from that same church.  This discussion was more informative and left me more uneasy about providing this church pastoral leadership, but I wanted to honor their inquiring of my experience and interest in joining them.  The church was split and troubled and very conservative in its view of women in leadership.  As the conversation concluded, I told the person I needed to process what we discussed.  She would be indisposed over the next few weeks and was uncertain if anyone else would be in contact with me.

The next day, I knew I needed others to pray for us and any other conversations I might have with this church.  The spiritual insight I received from my friends who prayed helped greatly.  One of them believed she heard the Lord say, "Steps" regarding my prayer request.  I hadn't told either of our friends about my dream.  Steps were in the dream and added to my understanding.

The office room had many steps.  In that part of the dream, my adversary spoke violently about our female boss.  The leadership in the church thought of women as secondary citizens and incapable of providing spiritual leadership.  In the dream, I didn't openly oppose the man, but my colleague did.  I believe this symbolized that this church and its dysfunction was not my fight, and I shouldn't take it on.  

When I climbed the mountain, I climbed quickly almost as if I wasn't taking steps at all.  In the office, I followed the lead of my colleague to confront our opponent and call him to account.  It wasn't my fight.  Ascending the mountain, it was my turn to fight.  This seems to me to be apostolic.  I'm sent to take land away from adversaries for the sake of my King and to honor the loss of many shepherds (martyrs).

What am I to make of this?

The critical matter for me is the fight.  I've agreed to participate in a prayer team for a Chrysalis flight in May, and this is an opportunity for spiritual warfare, but could this be the extent of the fight?  I don't know for sure.

What I do know is if there is more understanding or revelation still to come, I feel the same way as Terrance Mann did, Of course I'm gonna write about it.  That's what I do. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A New Prayer for a New Year

At the close of a year and the start of a new one, I've been given something fresh to pray.

People we know have experienced in 2017 some of the worst things in life.  There are some who've experienced new and exciting opportunities.  There are even more folks who fell right in between enduring struggles while encountering gifts of grace and mercy in spirit, soul and body.  2017 has been a mixed bag for most.

As 2016 was winding down, April received a scripture as a gift and a point of focus for faith.

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
    today I declare that I will restore to you double. -- Zechariah 9: 12

We grew to realize 2017 was a year of hope for us.  We were not forgotten.  By the middle of the year, April had a new and better job, and, like Jackson Browne sang years ago, we moved into our own apartment in the shade of the freeway.  Hope has been a stronghold for us, and we saw things double to our benefit.  Alleluia.

We've sensed 2018 will be a year of unique and powerful things in our lives.  Some may say its inappropriate to affirm such an optimistic viewpoint while so many suffer.  We've come to agree this is a year of faith in which we'll witness miracles and divine manifestations we've never seen before.  There's no reason not to believe such miracles and outpourings of grace and mercy from a loving heavenly Father can come to those who endure difficulties as 2017 cones to a close.  I encourage those who so readily condemn our optimism to begin to believe God is working in the circumstances of those who need what only God can provide.

Our lives in the shade of the freeway grew to be redundant as autumn led into winter.  We struggled individually to find peace and satisfaction in our work while remaining hopeful that God's plans for us could still unfold.  

One of my joys in reading scripture lessons from the Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer is to be moved by sparks of light that emerge from the lessons that prompt me to pray in faith.  A declarative statement of what God can do or what a faith community is believing has inspired me to pray and believe the same for a friend, family member, our nation or myself.  I've also found phrases or verses that spoke honest feelings that inspired me to be equally honest with my heavenly Father, as well.

As the mundane continued unabated, I settled into praying daily one of several phrases I constructed from my reading the Psalms this fall.  I prayed, Rouse yourself, rise up and make haste to help us for we have not forgotten you.  This was often prayed from varying points of emotional awareness.  I was sometimes hope-filled in prayer and sometimes insistent with a clenched fist and jaw.  

Much to my pleasant surprise, the Lord made it known to me it was time for me to pray something else.  

One early morning as I was returning to the receiving area in my store to retrieve another pallet of produce, I glanced at a video monitor used to broadcast commercials 24/7.  The image on the screen was of a product with the name, MaraNatha.  I don't even know what kind of product it was.  What struck me was the word.  Maranatha is an ancient Christian breath pray, Lord, come.  What happened next was what left my mouth agape.

As I digested Maranatha being used as a product's name, I heard in my spirit John Michael Talbot, a Christian recording artist and Franciscan monk, singing his composition, Send Us Out. The refrain brought tears to my eyes and assurance God was still with me.

Send us out to proclaim the reign of your Kingdom.
Send us out to proclaim and to heal.
Send us out with your power and your authority
To overcome and to heal the world.
The refrain continued to bring me peace and joy for rest of my shift. When I went home to tell April of this experience and play her the song which she was not intimately familiar, something dawned on me. This is what the Lord wants me to pray now instead of calling him to arise and help us. I believed in what the words said. Come, Lord. Send us out now with your power and authority to overcome and heal the world. Now is the time.
I dreamed about a month ago of baking cornbread. My father put a pan of batter in the oven and asked me to take it out in 20 minutes (I'm not a cook). My mother was there and took it out a few minutes late. He came back and asked me if I had. I said Mom did. He looked at the pan. The bread was black along the edges and dark brown elsewhere. He touched it. It was hard, and he cussed.
When I awoke, I knew the dream meant our moving on was overdue just like the cornbread was overdone.
I write this to give testimony of what the Lord spoke to me in a language of song and visual image that I can't miss and pray a new prayer for the new year.
I also write this to encourage you to seek or expect to find or to be gifted with a new prayer to pray for the new year. A new year is automatically a new season for all of us, and with that, a new focus of our hope and faith for self and or our world.
Ask the Lord what might be a new prayer to pray this year for you. I encourage you as you pray to believe you receive it, and you shall have it. The new year is a new opportunity to believe afresh in the God who makes all things possible for the one who believes.
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

I Want to Do What I Want to Do on Christmas

"I want to do what I want to do on Christmas."

On a podcast I listen to frequently, there was a discussion led by the host who was upset a country club in Delaware to which he's a member will be closed on Christmas.  He's Jewish, but that wasn't the heart of his argument.  He had no problem the employees of the golf course being off.  His point was the private course could be left open and members were encouraged to leave the carts where they found them, pick up after themselves and leave everything the way they left it. I was bothered by that.

What made it worse was one of the guests repeatedly said, "I want to do what I want to do on Christmas!"  It greatly bothered him stores were closed and certain services were not available on this one day of the year.  I don't know why this shocked me so.

The host being Jewish and wanting to play golf on Christmas was fine with me.  It was a shame, I guess, he planned a holiday in Rehobeth, but he couldn't look forward to playing golf on that one day of the year.  Being familiar with the host's broadcast persona, which may not be who he truly is, I knew he wants things the way he wants them how he wants them (rather Scrooge-like).  It just bugged me he kept saying it was wrong for the golf course not to be open on Christmas.

It infuriated me the guest wanting things open on that one day so he could get and do what he wanted on that one day of the year.  He sounded sincere to me.  My disdain for such a attitude was on several levels.

First, SHUT UP!  Are you a child that you want things the way you want them? If you don't, you'll threaten a tantrum?  This particular guest was a broadcast journalist probably making a minimum of six figures easily.  Poor baby can't go shopping or go out to eat one day of the year so others could spend an entire day off from work.  This brings me to the second level.

Could you just try to think about somebody else beside yourself?  There's such a disconnect between the wealthy in this society and the rank-and-file worker in this service oriented/retail based economy.  Perhaps its always been this way, and I'm more sensitive to it now because I'm one of those workers.  I listened to this podcast on the way home from a hard day at work, and these "one percenters" complained about having to put up with things being closed on Christmas. As Bruce Cockburn sang years ago, "If I had a rocketlauncher . . . "

Its fine to be wealthy and have things in your life the way you want them without hurting or dehumanizing others.  No complaint here.  This discussion about one day of the year being a nuisance because your rights to play or buy are infringed illustrate the chasm between the have and the have-nots in this society.  The "haves" have the luxury to seek and find what they want when they want it most of the time.  The "have-nots" have to earn what they can how they can and look forward to the meager amounts of relief from the daily drudgery in the form of A DAY OFF.  Have you seen A Christmas Carol lately?

Keep in mind, I believe the media created War on Christmas is ridiculous.  Christ being taken out of the public square because he offends is absurd (The church offending others is another topic). The creche having to share space with a menorah may be a reality in some communities.  Got no problem with that.  My Christian responsibility is to love, not to be prejudicial toward anyone.  Christ died for all.  God is love.  You're right, I should love the "one percenters".

I close with these last thoughts . . .

The secularization of western society is a real thing, and its a challenge for the church.  Its been relatively easy for Christianity to thrive in most of our American communities.  Angry men stepping into sanctuaries and "opening up" their semi-antomatics on children and elderly is a topic for another post (Why are people so angry and/or mentally disturbed?)

Christianity is not meant to fortify our class or racial prejudices.  Its meant to declare the good news of our God loving us so God bore our sins on himself and died the death of a blasphemer and law-breaker. Upon resurrection, the Lord then recognizes us as righteous in his eyes of love forever.  This good news is to be advanced in deeds and words, if necessary, so the world might know.  Being Christian doesn't mean we're suppose to live a privileged life of being the dominant and blessed.

The podcast caught me.  I got angry at what I heard was a prejudicial, classist world view.  Forgive me.

Finally, I simply write, have a wonderful, restful Christmas with family and friends or alone, but remember and honor those who enjoy a day off or have to work on this Christian holiday.  They may simply have to.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

An Incident of Joy

(Posted previously on the blog, Stronger Than Death)
As Scrooge said, Somehow or other, it came just the same.

Thursday in the Book of Common Prayer lectionary it was the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle.  The Psalm for the day was Psalm 126.

May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.  Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.  -- Psalm 126: 5-7 

It was a work day for me.  We've received shipments in large volumes recently.  To such a degree, we don't have enough room to stockpile it all on shelves in our storage areas.  Its been a strain on me.

Surprisingly, I got down to the next to the last pallet and found myself reciting playfully the lyrics of Winter Wonderland.  It caught me by surprise.  This has not been the week marked by spontaneous outbursts of happiness, on the contrary.  I laughed out loud and kept up the recitation.

This was an incident of joy for me.  It came upon me, even overtook me.  I'd been overtaken by the duties of labor this week.  Such prolonged drudgery would often cause perfectionism to arise in me accompanied by anger.  It isn't that I approach perfection in my work. My brand of perfectionism points me to what is required by some parental imposed standard in my soul. Such mythical expectations could never be met.  This is where the anger lies in wait. This arises when the tasks are overwhelming, and I'm physically and emotionally tired.

Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy.

This is why the joy coming upon me was so surprising.  I'd been wrestling with the anger, frustration and weariness all morning.  One might say my knowledge of nearing the end was enough to spark joy in me.  I'm not convinced.

When I found myself uttering Winter Wonderland in a playful manner I was also aware a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and my mind.  My eyes were brighter.  My energy level grew.  I was happy, happy lifting cases, happy printing inventory labels without a curse word or dark thought approaching my consciousness.  I was captured.

In a funny cartoonish accent - Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening. A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland.  Gone away, is the blue bird. Here to stay, is the new bird. He sings a love song, as we go along, walking in a winter wonderland.

It caught me.  It slayed me.  I was lifted and refreshed with hope.  I'd encountered grace from a heavenly Father who wanted me to know his promises to me were true.  Recently, a prophet had declared over me I'd be branded with joy.  Yesterday was a taste of what grace can do through joy.  It comes as a gift not warranted by good behavior or perfection accomplished.  In Daddy's eyes, I'm already perfect.  Joy blanketed me with love.  Its an incident only God can orchestrate.

Gracious joy does not make itself known by virtue of accomplishments or perfect thinking or believing.  Gracious joy comes to the world by virtue of a heavenly Father that loves the world so much.  The Lord wants to make himself known even surprisingly.

May joy come to you in surprises, in gifts, in weights lifted, grace experienced.  You are loved.

Merry Christmas.