Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Old Long Since (Auld Lang Syne)

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:
Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations;
proclaim that his name is exalted. -- Isaiah 12: 3

We listened to and sang Christmas songs performed by James Taylor as we drove south to retrieve our daughter from Auburn for the holidays.  I wrote about this trip earlier in this blog (post: Have Yourself a Joyful Christmas, 12/14/14).  JT's Christmas CD concludes with a touching rendition of Auld Lang Syne.  The spirit of this ancient piece wasn't wasted on me that night.

A translation of "auld lang syne" is "old long since."  This song brings those who sing or listen to reflect on the year about to close.  The lyrics James sang to us that night guided me to recollect two of my friends with whom I've shared experiences in God.

Two of the verses paint adventures shared by two friends:  
We two have run about the hills
and gathered flowers fine
we wandered many a weary foot
since auld lang syne
And . . .
We two have sported in the brook
from morning sun til dine
but seas between us have roared and swelled
since auld lang syne

Though it hasn't been a separation of years from my friends, the song caught me emotionally longing to link again with old friends with whom I shared spiritual encounters.  One friend prophesied repeatedly over me, stirring within me a destiny as a gifted minister regardless of my place or vocation.  My other dear brother shares with me a history. We fought side by side spiritual and ecclesiastical battles. We, also, laughed openly, worshiped freely and shared wholeheartedly.  

And here’s a hand my trusty friend
and give a hand of thine
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet
for auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear
for auld lang syne
we’ll take a cup of kindness
for auld lang syne

I read Isaiah 12 earlier this week.  It spoke to me of what is to come.  Joy can and will be a vessel to draw from the reality of salvation from God alone.  The day when joy will, in effect, be a cup from which we drink of salvation will be the day we all make known God's deeds among the nations.  We’ll take a cup of kindness for auld lang syne (old long since).

In Christ, this day is realized now, AND a level of my calling is still to write and record what the Lord has done and is doing to inspire worship for generations.  April and I and our family are to witness the manifestation of God's presence on Sand Mountain that will heal, save and set free scores of people and families.  We will all drink from the cup from the wells of salvation.  This is our destiny! 

My friends will also witness these things and participate in declaring what the Lord has done.  What is long since past may be remembered, but the dawning of a new day of joy will eclipse the old.  We'll share in a new cup.  Alleluia.

The passing of 2014 will be a joyous passing for this family.  We've all experienced encounters and expressions from the Lord, but the difficulties have never been seen before.  All four of us know there will laborious births in 2015 for us.  We're aware of these facts, but what is to come by the words and hands of our gracious Father will be truly unique for all of us.  This we believe as a family and as those called for tasks in the Kingdom.

Happy new year to you and to all you hold dear!  Amen!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Your Hands & Arms

We went to a local church on Christmas eve.  April and I wanted to go to a traditional Christmas Eve service to join in the tradition of carols and the gospel account of the Christmas story and liturgy.  April has felt she's missed Advent this year.  This would be an opportunity to recapture what was missed or lost.

We attended the 10 p.m. service at a church pastored by a friend of ours.  I told Anna I expected to cry sometime during the service because I expected to experience God's presence.  I never cried or even shed a tear.  We didn't sing enough to suit me, but there were plenty of liturgical elements.  Overall, it was fine. 

Christmas morning, we had a few presents to open.  We opened them, discussed their significance, embraced each with joy and thanked the giver of each.  We then prepared our traditional Christmas breakfast.  April's brother and wife went to their daughter's house for the morning, so the kitchen was all ours.   

When I prayed over the meal before we ate, I prayed we were thankful this year because "we're in your hands and in your arms."  That was it.  I didn't script or prepare in advance what to pray, but those spontaneous words made me cry in God's presence.   

This was a gift.  I didn't sense the Lord's presence the night before.  I did encounter him in that moment of prayerful thanks over the meal and our year in God's care.  It was truly a gracious gift to me. 

We are recipients of grace and mercy this year.  Though there has been sacrifice and suffering while we've sought to follow what we believe the Lord has inspired us to pursue, our family has been in the hands and arms of our heavenly Father.  

Whatever follows, I believe, will be unique.  We'll witness the goodness of God in our circumstances and the embrace of our Father's arms as we reside in his hands.  Alleluia.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Before Advent Departs . . .

Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him
    do not fret over those who prosper in their way, 
    over those who carry out evil devices.  

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. 
    Do not fret—it leads only to evil. 
For the wicked shall be cut off, 
    but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land
-Psalm 37: 7-9 

Before Advent departs, I wanted to share what the Lord revealed to me regarding waiting in this season.

It was in the middle of this season of Advent when April experienced a spiritual attack in dream form.  The dream involved serpents which always means a demonic encounter.  It angered me to hear about this dream.  I so wanted whoever or whatever was responsible to be cut off, as the Psalm writer said.  If I could have responded violently, I would have.  My spoken words were savage and stained with anger.

These verses from Psalm 37 struck me, sobered my temper when I read them the day after my response to April's dream.  Wait and do not fret and refrain from anger.  Its unnecessary.  Pray for your enemies.

With April, I prayed for those whom I believed partnered, willingly or unwillingly, with those forces that oppose us.  We prayed they encounter God and repent of their partnership with darkness and a spirit of religion against us.  While it is good for the partners of darkness to turn, it is best for me to not partner with vengeance.

Great God, forgive me for my anger and fretting.  I was wrong and childish.  I repent of that behavior and language.  I want to be with you and your will and kingdom.  Alleluia.

Lift up your heads, O gates!  and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! - Psalm 24: 9-10 

The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, "Glory!" - Psalm 29: 9 

The gates and ancient doors are commanded to be lifted up and opened for the Lord.  This is not language of waiting but the language of anticipation and preparation.

What does the Lord do?  The Lord speaks, and the environment changes, and we say, "Glory!"  The Lord acts with words and declarations. We act with preparations.

A few days ago I read a prophetic word Chuck Pierce posted on his Facebook page.  The heart of the posting from the Lord was, "(My people's) hope in me performing what I have spoken has become like a faded dream.  They are living in the present, with dread for the future.  They no longer anticipate favorable outcomes in their lives.  They are not rising above but being sidetracked by circumstances.  These circumstances are keeping them from entering into my creative power. . . . I am able.  Lean not on your own abilities, for I can enable you."

This lost ability to anticipate sounds like Zechariah, John the Baptist's father.  Gabriel took away his ability to speak.  He couldn't speak an anticipating word of what God promised him.  Better he lose his ability to speak than to speak doubt of what the Lord told him.

We've struggled to stay anticipating what God has promised.  What we've experienced in the past year is that there are fewer and fewer circumstances that are sidetracking us.  Yes, God is able.  We're leaning less and less on our own abilities and more on what the Lord still says.

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. 
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 
On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.  -- Psalm 62: 5-7

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Change In Altitude

April dreamed recently our bed in our second floor bedroom was moved to the first floor.  A bed in a dream means rest or intimacy.  Prior to our move, but, after we received the invitation to move here, our sister-in-law told us she believed God told her we'd come here to rest.

April dreamed twice recently of going down a flight of stairs.  I told her the weeks before and after we moved this summer into the second floor of her brother's beautiful house I'd see phrases in my daily scripture readings that stood out to me of moving or looking upward to a higher place.   Consequently, we moved to the second floor in April's brother's home.  In the post, High & Extended (posted 7/11/14), I detailed the scriptures and related irony of these scriptures and parabolic symbolism in analogous dreams to our second floor home.

Its curious to me we're seeing new dream symbolism moving us from the second floor of rest to the ground floor.  I sense this means change is pending which is what we've believed for weeks.

With these dreams being part of our recent conversations, its funny the sermons we've listened to and through which we've felt the Lord speak to us.

Bill Johnson from Bethel Church, Redding, CA, preached a couple Sundays ago, "God counts it victory when you pray again after loss."  He went on to say the Lord is building a people to contain his purposes.  When the Lord says no, that's because there's a better yes to come.

We've struggled with the delays we've experienced.  We've received prophetic declarations and divine promises we've trusted as the Lord's will for us and for our destiny as ministers of the gospel.  We know what it is to refrain from boisterous expressions of praise to God when we've wondered if it was our fault the fulfillment of promises hasn't come.  We're familiar with praying for the well being of family and friends but abstaining from passionate prayers for the fulfillment of our promises.

Bill said, "We're learning to apprehend what was promised, but we're becoming something that can contain the fullness of what God is doing."  This spoke, first to April, then to me, the truth of where we've been and where we are.  Sin hasn't brought delay to our fulfilled destiny.  Guilt and shame are a waste of our time.  Simply, we're growing in our capacity to hold all that God has promised in and through us.

While there have been days when praying or worship have been difficult, we've still prayed and worshiped because the overall character of God we've encountered is still true - He's good and always good.  Bill's word to us legitimized our recent experiences as common to everyone, but the Lord is holding nothing against us.  We have prayed and worshiped without seeing fulfillment.  The Lord counts our faith as victory.  This brought us joy and hope.

After listening to this and celebrating with tears, I went on to listen to an old sermon I archived three and a half years ago.  It was a sermon Graham Cook preached at Bethel Church to their Supernatural School of Ministry.  I bookmarked it with the title, High Places.  I listened to it with new ears.

Graham said height, biblically, was associated with quality or power of something.  Height is transcendence, going beyond current limits, surpassing previous experiences and outside natural boundaries.  The high places in both Old and New Testaments were the places heaven touched earth.  They were the thin places.

Graham went on to use the illustration of high places and high altitudes to describe our growing relationship with God apart from natural limitations.  We're not normal people.  We're to live from a high place, a place where heaven touches earth.  Our starting place of life with God is not from need but a place of relationship, provision, love.

All of his language of height and a high altitude struck me afresh because we're living on a higher level, the second floor.  We were invited to live here.  I was inspired by scriptures describing high places and elevations before and after we moved here.  The promises given to us over the last few years involved ministering by providing a place of God's Presence to the broken and sick and lost of Sand Mountain, the largest plateau east of the Mississippi (I've been told).  We're learning to expand our capacity to hold all God has promised us. We're becoming something that can contain the fullness of what God is doing.

Graham said at high altitudes, you must take small steps and adopt a child-like simplicity to living.  While living in this season, we've had to grow in our child-like dependence on God because we don't have anything else and to take small steps, small actions because our resources are limited. 

Complex thinking can't be handled at high altitudes.  We've had to keep things simple.  Graham said to keep it simple when you're going through difficulties by reading the gospels and the psalms, not Paul's epistles.  The past two years, the gospels and the psalms have been my food.  Paul's writing has not been a staple source for me.

Emotions are in flux when you're in high altitudes.  Graham said the Sherpas in the Himalayas told him to keep your emotions steady by bringing yourself to peace and rest.  Climbers are prone to swing emotionally from ecstasy to depression in moments.  We've been inclined to feel optimistic one day and depressed the next.  We've had to learn balance in our spirits by focusing on who we are in Christ alone.  This has been, perhaps, the biggest challenge.

There's a price to pay to live at a high place, where heaven meets earth.  Graham said you have to accept a certain level of discomfort, hardship in order to fulfill the dream of being with God.  You pay a price for the anointing. 

"God measures our faithfulness by how much we persevere and press in," Graham said.  This is where Bill and Graham collided.  Faithfulness and victory is marked by pressing into your relationship with God and praying despite the loss or difficulty.  Partner with the God of favor and grace.

We've lived in a high place.  We've struggled with disappointment.  We've cried out for justice day and night.  We've felt abandoned.  Now, we feel our God, our Comforter has granted us peace and joy we haven't experienced in quite a while.  We encountered our Savior in worship and study and soaking readily the last few weeks knowing we have nothing else.  We've paid a price.

Could it be we're now descending, like walking down steps,  from our current position in order to ascend to a new place, a high place of quality and power in God?

April dreamed recently she was in a rocket with a man she believed to be her husband, but it wasn't me.  The rocket blasted off.  She was frightened, but her husband, who we now believe to be Jesus, laughed and said, "Be sure to put on your oxygen mask."  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Have Yourself a Joyful Christmas

One night, recently, we drove to Auburn to meet our daughter and bring her home after her last exam of the semester.  We listened to Christmas music on CDs.   The darkness coupled with the tears in my eyes made driving rather hazardous.

Earlier, after April and I discussed my anger and depression getting the best of me that day, I realized how purposeful such days were for me in the past.  Days of inner pain that led me to act decisively to go on leave from ministry and resign subsequently from a managerial position approximately 16 years ago brought me to seek and find our God as one who speaks.  He spoke to me then words of life and mystery, and I received light to my path.  Upon realizing the similarity of feelings of years ago to what is recent and what is pending, joy came to me.

I have not always known joy at Christmas time as an adult.  Several weeks ago, addition to having Christmas trees in my dreams (a positive image according to those who interpret), I experienced spontaneous moments of joy related to Christmas out of the blue. Lately, its ended while a subtle level of depression grew.  The moment of realization of the inner pain motivating me years ago to act and settling me into a place of hearing God's voice profoundly cast a light on what is happening now. 

Regardless of the description and similarities, joy has returned, and with it, hope.

As we made our way in the darkness on US Hwy 431, we listened to James Taylor's rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry, Little Christmas."  The phrase that caught me in a instance with joy and hope was "May your hearts be light. In a year, our troubles will be out of sight."  Alleluia.

Some say this song is melancholy.  That night, I found it wonderfully joyful.  It expressed hope.  May all who hear this have a merry, little Christmas.  Your expectations could be high, but, most of all, may your hearts be light.  This coming year will change all the current troubles to memories. 

My tears were not sad or mournful.  My tears, as I drove (and slowed down so we wouldn't crash) and listened and rejoiced, were drops of joy.  God was speaking to me.  This song has been my favorite secular Christmas song for years.  God used it to express to me, again, joy and hope have returned.  I can prepare myself for what is coming to us and our world.  I can expect there to be opportunities upon which to act decisively. 

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
    and you have healed me.

O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
    restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment;
    his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.
. . . You have turned my mourning into dancing;
    you have taken off my sackcloth
    and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
-- Psalm 30: 2-5, 11-12 

Friday, December 12, 2014

For You I Wait

Lead me in the truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.      -- Psalm 25: 5 

While I wait, I've thought about some things.

It's the Christian liturgical season of Advent.  Advent means 'coming.'  Many mainline churches and liturgically based denominations recognize the season of Advent to spend most of worship time in December preparing one's spirit and soul for the coming of Jesus as the triumphant King of kings and Lord of lords, as well as, the return of the infant to the manger.  It’s a rich tradition of anticipation and rejoicing in our God who is faithful to fulfill his promises.  While there is a coming of the Messiah, there is, also, a waiting on the part of the faithful.

We're to wait for what is to come and remain devoted and faithful to the King and his kingdom.

While I wait, I've thought about some things.  That's one of the things about waiting.  You're left to your own thoughts and reflections.

I can't sell much of anything.  Virtually all of the jobs I've been offered or worked on leave of absence several years ago or since I left the UMC are jobs of commerce or direct sales.  Except for a job in radio, I dealt with selling goods or services.  Retail or sales management saw my inquiries for work and assumed, based on my experience in ministry, I'd do well working with the public and could easily convince a customer to buy what I offered.

I've convinced myself of the same assumptions many times, but, the fact is, I can't sell much of anything.  Isn't the gospel a sales pitch?  Oh, my God!  It’s the good news of God's love for all.  You can't sell that.  That being true, in ministry, as well as in much of my life, I learned the hard way I was prone to be a 'people pleaser.'  This meant I didn't want anyone upset with me, so I'd seek to please to avoid disapproval from superiors.  That revelation is one of the stepping stones that's led me to be where I am - not making a career of pleasing people.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.  -- Psalm 31: 24 

This is another of my thoughts as I wait for his coming.

I remember the pain of working at Books-A-Million.  I attributed the pain to being somewhere I wasn't suppose to be.  The demands of the job kept me engulfed in managing a business that was not fulfilling the calling on my life.  If you've never experienced this feeling of being somewhere and doing something that is not only foreign but incorrect for you, you'll find this to be a difficult concept.

The feelings of being at the wrong place for the wrong purposes, also, brought on depression and anger.  These feelings repeated themselves before Books-A-Million while I was serving as a pastor in Tuscaloosa.  I served there one year and, then, requested and was granted a leave of absence from ministry.  I knew pastoral ministry was no longer a passion for me, and I had to leave it for a period of reevaluation.  When I left, I felt like a coward.  April, however, told me it was God's will for me to rest. 

While on leave, I worked for a time in radio, which I loved, but it didn't pay sufficiently.  I was then offered a management job with Books-A-Million, and the pain I felt as a minister returned.  A couple months later I took a job at a local hotel working the front desk and washing dishes.  I worked there a year and a half without any of that inner pain of being in the wrong place.  While working there and attending the church April served, I began to hear the voice of God in ways I'd never experienced before (It was here I heard the Lord reveal to me Psalm 102: 18-22 in The Message).  Through such learning and experiencing, we're in a position that few have known because of the pain and passion involved.

Since April and I left the UMC to follow a calling separate from pastoral ministry, I've experienced this inner pain a couple times when offered and worked jobs in retail and direct sales.  I recognized the pain.  I could name it and was not willing to endure it again.  Unemployment isn't always the worst condition for a skilled and gifted human being in this society.

Recently, I felt this same pain again of being in the wrong place for wrong purposes.  I not only felt it as anger and depression, but it compelled me to desire willfully to leave where we are in pursuit of our destiny of providing an environment for the Presence of the Lord to bless, save and heal many on Sand Mountain (This is our calling).  With passion AND anger, I repeatedly said to myself, God and April, "It's time for us to leave!"

As April and I discussed this recently, it dawned on me that the pain I felt as a minister in Tuscaloosa and a bookstore manager drove me to act decisively to leave those positions. I left the ministry and the store to ultimately put me in a place to learn to hear the voice of God.  I had to learn to hear His voice and to know when its time to act for the purposes of God.

Its now time to leave and act for the purposes of God.  How all this is to occur is still a mystery, but experience and recent, subtle encounters with our God have spoken to me.

When we're in the season to wait upon the Lord, there's little else to do but to grow comfortable with the waiting.  When that season begins to shift into a time of action and, perhaps, labor as if there's to be a birth, anxiety rises.  The waiting is drawing to a close.  Labor will soon begin.

Advent is a sign post that something is truly coming.  Be assured, I'll tell you what comes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Revisiting Ezekiel

April came into the room where I sat one day this week.  She said she had a job interview scheduled for later in the week.  We both rejoiced.  Subsequently, as I listened to worship music from my laptop, I heard Brian Johnson from Bethel Church in Redding, CA sing spontaneously, "Where you see dry bones, he (God) sees an army."

The imagery in that phrase reminded me intimately of Ezekiel 3-7-9 in a dream back in February, 2011.  I wrote about that dream in an article posted on February 26, A Dream Anniversary.  In the article, I interpreted the numbers, at first, to mean chapter 37, verse 9 in Ezekiel, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on the slain that they will live."

Earlier this year, I realized Ezekiel 3: 7-9, though I missed it in 2011, was a set of verses that predicted remarkably for me what was to happen in my life and ministry in the months that followed that dream.  Despite this, Ezekiel 37: 9 was the verse that thrilled me and provided for me abundant optimism for what was to come in our lives.  When I heard Brian utter, "Where you see dry bones, he sees an army," that optimism arose again.

In a dream state several days ago, I saw "December 5, 2010" written on a lined page in a journal entry.  I looked back in my past journals and found on Dec. 6, 2010 I wrote about a particularly wonderful time of worship the day before.  The Presence of the Lord was heavy on me through tears and laughter.  Several folks expressed appreciation for me and the my message that day.  The Friday before, I said to April over dinner there was so much more to do at that church, but there would be ramifications for moving forward.

It was on the early morning of February 22, 2011 I dreamed "Ezekiel 3-7-9. (again, described in detail in A Dream Anniversary, 2/26/14)"  Ezekiel 3: 7-9 was what I read first.  The Lord communicated to me in these verses the "house of Israel" would not listen to me because they're hardheaded.  I will be as hardheaded as they were in the days ahead.  "They are a rebellious house."  I rejected those verses and focused on chapter 37, verse 9.  I missed what the Lord told me for those immediate days.

Back to considering December 5 in dream form several days ago. A day later, I sensed I needed to research December 5, 2012.  I looked up that date in my journal.  It was two years after the wonderful, powerful worship experience.  On that date, I had lunch with my district superintendent after a very contentious meeting with laity from the church.  The majority of them wanted me to pledge to behave and believe differently ("They are a rebellious house").  I refused and told my D.S. on December 5, 2012 I was going to leave that church and apply for a leave of absence immediately.  That evolved into turning in my ordination as a United Methodist clergyperson on February 26, 2013. 

December 5, 2010 was evidently a powerful day in the Spirit.  February 22, 2011, 79 days later, I dreamed Ezekiel 3-7-9.  December 5, 2012 was the day I declared my intention to leave the pastoral ministry.  I'm left to wonder what is the significance of December 5, 2014. Perhaps after another two years, there's about to be another significant change dictated by the Holy Spirit for April and me. 

Brian sang, in effect, to me a couple days ago, "Where you see dry bones, he sees an army."  I believe Ezekiel 3: 7-9 was fulfilled two years ago.  We've witnessed dry bones, an arid spiritual season.  We know what it is to be in a wilderness. I now believe we've entered into the season of the fulfillment of "'Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on the slain that they will live.'"  We believe and rejoice!

After reading this, you may feel awash in dates.  Well, I just wanted to map out some inspiration linking with some prophetic revelation through my dream life.  All of this communicates how the Lord is speaking to me.  Looking at all this, are you wondering how the Lord is speaking to you and conveying what your destiny is to be or are you not paying attention?

My business in this blog is to fulfill what I believe God has directed me to do:
Write this down for the next generation     
so people not yet born will praise God:
God looked out from his high holy place;
    from heaven he surveyed the earth.
He listened to the groans of the doomed,
    he opened the doors of their death cells.”
Write it so the story can be told in Zion,
    so God’s praise will be sung in Jerusalem’s streets
And wherever people gather together
    along with their rulers to worship him.
-- Psalm 102: 18-22, The Message

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Facebook Lady & Zacchaeus

When you're doing your best to stay alert for a hope-filled message or encouraging sign, you sometimes take a step in a direction you're less inclined to do normally.  I sought prayerful counsel from a stranger on Facebook. 

The page on which I asked for prayer and any encouragement from a prophetic sense has never seemed to be squirrelly or spiritually adrift.  I've sought prayer from there before (wrote about this page before, A Dream of School).  It was affirming and hopeful then.  I asked for prayer and any spiritual insights yesterday.  A dear woman wrote back.

Be confident.  You'll see the Lord's goodness.  It is God who gives us the Victory.  Make vows to the Lord and fulfill them.  It is better to not promise at all than to promise and break it.  Holy Spirit, guide Jeff with your counsel.  I pray in Jesus' name. Amen. 

I was encouraged, but a little unsettled.  Had I made any vows to the Lord I've left unfulfilled or abandoned?  I pray not.  It's funny we're led to things we hear from others first that may be construed as critical rather than claiming the encouraging words first.  Maybe I was looking for an excuse to discredit this Christian woman, and, thereby lower my expectations of her spiritual insight.  Regardless, I'll see God's goodness, but be careful of the vows I make.  Hmmm.

This morning, I read Zacchaeus' story in Luke 19 from the Daily Office scriptures in the Book of Common Prayer.  There are elements in this story that are interesting.  Jesus remained itinerant.  He went to Jericho and found Zacchaeus.  Zac didn't go looking for Jesus but wanted to see him when he came to town.  Zac climbed a tree to see him.  Jesus called Zacchaeus by name and invited himself to Zac's house.  The crowd grumbled (who cares?).  Zacchaeus said he'd give half of his possessions away and four times of what he defrauded back to his pigeons.

As is my custom, I reflect on scripture I read daily by writing my insights in my journal. While I wrote, it dawned on me there were ironies between my Facebook lady's insights and this story.   Zacchaeus encountered grace in Jesus' acceptance of him. That was the goodness of God.  He then responded to what only God can do for him by making public vows of recompense to those he harmed.  The goodness of God was followed by vows made by the one given victory.

We don't know for certain Zac did what he promised, but Jesus said salvation came to that house.  Kimberly declared over me I should be confident I'll see the Lord's goodness.  She then wrote, "Make vows to the Lord and fulfill them." I'm told to be confident I'll see the Lord's goodness, and, it appears vows will follow.

Its impossible to convey to you the hope I experienced when I realized the parallels between Luke 19 I read this morning and the prophetic declaration, in the name of Jesus, given to me the night before.  The gospel lesson was on schedule to be read today, but my actions in asking a stranger to pray for me on Facebook was not anticipated.  God the Father expressed reassurance to me when I needed it.  Alleluia!

Great God, I am confident I'll see your goodness and victory.  I'll make vows and follow your counsel.  Its cool when a word is given and a scripture follows to illustrate.  I claim in faith, Holy Spirit, your counsel regarding your victory and subsequent vows made.  I will fulfill them.  Lord, our past does not define us. 

Great God, I love and trust you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thank You for Meeting With Us

I haven't shared much about my family of origin. I was and remain the youngest of three offspring born to my parents in Baltimore, MD. The one essential family occurrence every week was our attendance in Christian worship. The wheres and hows are unimportant, right now. Elementary to my life was attending worship.

Denominationally, we were United Methodist. If another tribe occupied that same building, I think we'd be affiliated with them. Maybe, maybe not. Such decisions were made by my parents, and, again, the whys and wherefores are irrelevant. Sunday mornings, we walked the one block approximately and crossed a major thoroughfare in Baltimore County, and we arrived to learn about and worship God.

Scores of families and individuals had and continue to exercise such practices on the designated day of worship. Where they worship and with whom was decided after consideration and prayer, or by tradition, or by convenience. Regardless, many Christians still worship God weekly and communally. This same practice has shaped me perhaps more than any other in my life. Its made me who I am. I'm thankful for the life I have.

My last post was a reflection on intercession and believing what is prayed is received. I'll close this post with another prayer of thanksgiving, believing in the power and love of God manifested in recent experiences of worship all over the land.

I want to share two additional thoughts. First, I've been inspired to write the last two posts, I believe, to prompt the readers to express heartfelt praise to God for what is happening among all and through all Christians. There is something happening in the Spirit that is drawing believers together. This, I believe, is essential for what the Lord has started in this part of the world that is tantamount to a spiritual revival. A significant revival will not occur in fullness without unity among sisters and brothers. Giving thanks for what God is doing to draw believers together to pray in agreement for his grace, mercy, power and love is a wonderful, faith-filled affirmation. Be grateful for what the Lord is doing in and through all of us.

Secondly, I believe the Lord wants partners in what his will is to be in this world. That partnership will be realized only when there is trust between the two parties. In Hebrews 11, it says that it's impossible to please God without faith. I also believe God wants to trust us. When we've been faithful to treasure and practice how he's called all of us to live, more of what he is will come out of us to impact a world we love as God does. That's partnership.

Worship is the heartbeat of this partnership, this love affair. When we gather in the name of Christ and worship him like no one else, he comes among us. As he comes, his essence is on display. Our souls and spirits and bodies cannot remain the same as they were prior to joining in worship. His resurrected glory makes our songs and prayers and words and blessings to one another mirror images of what he would do among us. The glorious, mysterious and merciful matter to it all is he is doing it among all of us. For this, we give abundant praise and worship! Alleluia to our God!

Great God, for what's taken place in times and places of worship and gatherings recently, we're thankful. Many have gathered where colors and images signify changes to seasons. Many others gather regularly where the setting hasn't changed but is always appreciated because the worship space is
considered holy ground. It is here we and our ancestors before us have encountered the God of our salvation. In familiar territory, we've met our God, and he has blessed us richly.

We praise you for what took place in the last week when worshipers joined to sing and listen and pray and bless one another. We sang familiar and unfamiliar songs and hymns that brought glory to the name of our God. Angels and heavenly beings joined us in lifting praise. The environments were suddenly changed because the earth in that space heard the sons and daughters of God worshiping. Creation knew we stepped into our destiny, even for just an hour, of joining heaven and earth together by revealing the Lord of Lords afresh in song and declaration. Earth and sky reflected heaven as we sang and spoke of his glory! Alleluia!

Holy Spirit, you stirred hearts and minds and bodies to be aware of how they live now, and what life could be in days and seasons ahead. Your children underwent transformations when we uttered the name of Jesus. He healed us, perhaps spontaneously or with the dawning of a new season of correction in cells and muscles or thoughts and concepts. We were changed, or we witnessed change and conversion. What only you could do happened when we gathered to worship you, our God. We are thankful for miracles.

Daddy God, I praise you for repentance and faith and tears and laughter expressed in your Presence as the family of different nations and races and languages sought your face, and all that occurred thereafter. Alleluia!

Our world changes every time we come together and speak your name in praise. The gathered ones are sculptured into a new form that reveals the heart's desire of their Father. Great God, you want to reveal your will to your children, and through your Holy Spirit, you display yourself again to us as a source of grace and mercy. We seek you and fall into your embrace every time we worship you; however, we don't have to wait our turn to feel your hug. You engulf us with grace when we enter into the time and place of rejoicing with friends and strangers in worship. There is no other time like this, and no other Father like you.

With all we are, and all we hope to be, we lift your name on high! Great is the Lord God Almighty!

Great God, Daddy God, I love you!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thank You for the Miracles

Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
- Mark 1: 24, KJV 

 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. - Mark 11: 24, NIV

That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything.
- from Mark 11 in The Message

As I increase in age, I grow familiar with who I am truly, and where I'm drawn to settle and unfold my tent, bivouac where I'm most comfortable.  For some, that sounds like I'm seeking a place of comfort above all things, but in reality, I've grown comfortable with seeking and finding the places where I thrive.  

There are the essential tasks and responsibilities of life that are unavoidable. In addition and not to be neglected, there are abilities and gifts and passions that should be embraced.  For me, one of my passions is intercessory prayer. I've misunderstood the embracing of spiritual passions for years.  I've thought such pursuit was neglectful of responsibilities as an adult Christian. Consequently, I lived a frustrated Christian life for years. If you're honest with yourself, you've probably grown comfortable with your own frustration. One of the sad realities for me was I provided spiritual leadership in congregations while accepting my own spiritual frustrations, living out of responsibilities and not passion for how I'm gifted and inspired.

Where I thrive is predicated on what the Lord has told me to do.  In effect, what God has told me to do has become my passion and focus. Its real easy for me to retreat to places in my thinking and believing where I want to please people more than God.  Its even easier for me to curl up under the covers of low self-esteem, guilt, shame and regret.  Religion holds the door for me as I back up into these positions. Again, I thrive when I do what God has told me to do.  One thing for me to do is to write and record what God is doing, and, thereby give inspiration for worship (Hey, nobody said it would be good - He just said, "Write." Posted 2/25/14). Another is to pray.

Years ago when I was an adolescent and first encountered God, there was a verse that opened my spiritual heart to where I knew God cared about humanity, and where I could participate in God's will being fulfilled in the earth.  It was Mark 11: 24.  Its bold, and, almost unbelievable, but I believed it.  My ease in believing it back then was because, in the Spirit, I was gifted in interceding. Praying this way made spiritual sense to me. I say this now because I know where I thrive in the Spirit, and what place I occupy in the Body of Christ.  Its taken me years to accept this place, and to accept my passions as legitimate Christian expressions, and not laziness or foolishness.

When I pray as intercession I try not to beg.  I spend most of the time praising the Father for who I know him to be.  I then segment my time into three portions.  I'll pray for particular people and circumstances, asking for the grace and mercy of God to manifest in order to bless, heal and prosper.  These prayers are lifted in keeping with what scriptures address these issues specifically, or in general. Sometimes, in the Spirit, this requires me to speak to mountains or circumstances and command them to shift or change.  Most of all, this is done in love for people and our heavenly Father.

In humility, I know I'm not the only one praying for anyone or anything.  I believe the Spirit is ever raising up the Body to intercede for anything and everything.  As I pray, I believe I receive it, AND I believe I'm in agreement with someone in earth or heaven regarding that petition.  With that in mind, I trust the power of the prayer of agreement (Matthew 18: 19).  I'm not ashamed to say when I pray, I believe I receive, and on some level or degree in heaven or earth, God's will is fulfilled.  We're then one step closer to the glory of God covering the earth as the waters cover the sea.

The second portion of time is spent praying in the Spirit.  The Spirit knows best how and what to pray regarding anything.  This being true, I pray in English because our Father is looking for women and men to partner with him to bring his will to earth.  Praying in faith is critical to this.  I also believe when I can't express accurately or competently as I should, I can pray audibly or not in a prayer language that expresses exactly what the petition ought to be.  I then praise God for such a gift.

Thirdly, I listen.  Lord, speak to me.  I want to hear what you need to tell me and what I need to hear.  In any relationship, its good to let the other person share their heart with you.  No relationship thrives in unrelenting monologues from the sender to a receiver.  True communication doesn't exist in such a relationship. I'm still learning this. 

When I pray, I believe. For me, maybe not for everyone, but for me, Mark 11: 24 is the keystone for my passion to intercede for the world God so loves and to participate immediately wherever I am in bringing heaven to earth.  

The rest of this post is a prayer of thanksgiving after time spent recently in intercession. The outcome of this bit of explanation regarding a passion of mine and a prayer of thanksgiving is up to God.  I believe there's a purpose in it.  He's worthy of my trust and my praise.  Alleluia.

Great God, I praise and thank you for all the miracles that have been manifested in bodies, spirits, souls, circumstances and relationships.  You are worthy of praise!  Miracles have manifested, things only you can do have occurred. Physical conditions have changed.  Illnesses and diseases have been arrested.  Spirits have been born anew by confessing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ either for the first time or afresh after a season withdrawn from you.  Minds and hearts have been set free from oppression and ill-thinking because you've revealed yourself as a God of love and peace and joy, and no level of darkness was able to counteract your visitation in word or power. Whether in spontaneous fashion or through a process that's begun, miracles have revealed the goodness of God.  Alleluia. People are not the same.  How cool is that?

Great God, I praise you for the prayers of agreement that have brought heaven to earth in the state of Alabama in the last 24-48 hours.  I've come into agreement with your children who've cried out to you for relief and salvation and peace.  They've needed others to join with them in their condition, not to merely lament, but to state the obvious and to seek comfort that only comes from you.  I joined with them through prayer and faith.  Great God, things have changed.  Heaven came to earth.  Lives and circumstances became ground zero for your love and mercy.  Alleluia! 

These divine manifestations have come to earth particularly in the state of Alabama.  You offered me this state two years ("You can have it if you want it."), and I took it.  Great God, outpourings and visitations and unmistakeable signs of divine power and love have come through prayers of agreement in Alabama in the last few days.  I love the life you've given me!  You are worthy of great praise!

Things have shifted and changed to reveal your grace and mercy for the world you so love.  

Daddy God, I'm thankful you've given me this state.  I'm humbled to be incorporated in this mighty effort of yours, Holy Spirit, raising up intercessors. Alleluia!

In agreement and believing when we pray things change and heaven touches earth, your earth you so love is experiencing how good you are and how much you love your children.

Great God, I love you.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Dream of School

I've heard it said God speaks to us in our dreams because God can't get our attention when we're awake. 

It appears our dream lives have changed.  I shared on my previous post of a dream that restored hope in me.  I'm not sure I could have received all that dream conveyed in my daylight hours.  April dreamed a few nights ago a trio of dreams.  Nocturnal portraits of a robotic enemy that was more cartoon than menace, a depiction of what we endeavored to do by our own ministerial training, and an unveiling of supernatural force by God through us.  These adventures could only have been displayed while sleep permitted April to see what dreams can only show.   

While I prepared to go to bed a few nights ago, someone posted on a Facebook page that provides space to request prayers and any prophetic insight.  A stranger wrote to me, "Your circumstances and your past do not define you and what the devil has dealt you and taken from you the Lord will use to build you and help people through you."  The next morning I read from Joel 2, "In response to his people the Lord said, 'I am sending you grain, wine and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a mockery among the nations (vs. 19).'"  This verse which struck me in my daily reading the next morning echoed what the post spoke - grace grounded satisfaction and the end of attacks on self-esteem. 

In between the post and scripture reading, I dreamed, of course.  What I remember begins with me being a student at a supernatural school of ministry at Bethel in Redding, CA.  The feeling I carried in this dream was like being in college.  I was an underclassman, and there was no changing that.  I didn't expect or receive the respect seniors received or expected.  The school was a very serious place to be.  You were expected to put in the work and not give in or give up.   

The dominant scene I lived out in the dream was in a classroom listening to a lecture/sermon.  The curious thing was I didn't sit in the auditorium.  I sat in a small classroom beside a guy.  We shared a table.  We listened to the lecture through a speaker in the room.  I could see through our door into the auditorium across the hall.  As we listened, I reached around my neighbor to my briefcase on the other side of him to retrieve a pen.  I then retrieved a thin New Testament.  I had my journal already on the table.  I rose from the table, went through the door and stood in the doorway of the auditorium.  The lecture continued, and I stood there incredulous.  Of the students I could see seated facing the dais, many of them were not taking notes or following along.   

There was a guy sitting as though he were relaxing in an easy chair.  He had an electric hand tool with an orange power cord.  It rested in his lap and was on the verge of slipping out of his possession and landing on the floor.  I was bothered by what appeared to be a nonchalant attitude regarding where they were and what they were doing.  I gathered all my tools around me, sitting in an overflow room which symbolized for me being set aside, ignored, and unimportant.  The guy with a power tool symbolized someone who had immediate access to the power of God, but he was disinterested.  I'm considered an unimportant underclassman, and some there didn't care where they were. 

Candi told me on Facebook what has been taken from me or dealt to me will be used by the Lord to build me up and help people through me.  Amen.  I claim it, in Jesus' name.   

There are those who take for granted what's been given to them and the environment in which they reside. In this season, I am not among them.  We've been set aside for a time, but that time may be closing.  There may be those endued with power from on high, but it may slip from their grip regardless of their environment because they've grown apathetic and neglectful.  I'm in possession of what I need and it will all be used.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

I Dream of December

We've set our clocks back.  Upon waking, there's daylight slipping through our eyelids and bedroom windows.  The chairs at our dinner tables are occupied for our evening meals together as dusk slips into evening across our country.  Winter is around the corner with its festive holidays we mostly look forward to.  Apart from our creative timekeeping to gain or lose daylight, we're loosing grip of another year.  I say with confidence as 2014 is about to disappear, God is at work.                         

I dreamed one night this weekend.  It was in color.  It was long.  The first of it remains unclear.  What I remember begins with me having some level of responsibility which didn't make me comfortable.  I know the people I was responsible for had to leave.  All of us were scheduled to do so.  Before we were to leave I knew I was supposed to move a table (symbolic of like-minded people meeting together).  The building we were in reminded me of a department store.  There were parallel staircases in the center of the building.  On one landing in one staircase we moved the heavy, brown church table across to another landing on the opposite staircase on a corresponding floor.  

The next scene had me in  another part of the store looking into a glass display case.  A friend of mine from a church I pastored recently was beside me.  Before we moved to where we are now we lived in his former house on Sand Mountain.  I was laughing with him, telling him a confusing story about getting a printer ink cartridge at another time.  There was confusion in getting the exact cartridge I needed because of the item number.  I told him the number on the cartridge I needed was 101.  In the case, there were small white boxes of cartridges with the number 121 either printed or handwritten on them.  I said cartridge 121 will work.  Its sufficient. 

I then turned around and saw a former colleague in ministry.  As my colleague, he was bald.  In the dream, he had wet hair.  He wore a green windbreaker.  I said, "Hey."  He glanced at me momentarily.  I figured he was there to see my friend.   

was then in the next scene sitting in a convertible carriage with my colleague.  The carriage was parked on my elementary school playground.  A carriage in a dream is symbolic of the past.  I told my colleague I watched recently a DVD of a Christmas worship service where he sang and I preached from a pulpit.  We both wore preaching robes and red stoles.  I told him it was two years ago.  He remembered that service. 

We were then in the back seat of a car driven by a stranger and a woman sat beside him.  We pulled beside a large, brick church I presumed to be a Methodist church.  My colleague got out.  I did the same from my side.  The man and woman sitting in the front said, "Goodbye, Jeff."  I told them bye.  Their car was then not on the curb, but in a parking space in front of a cinder block wall.  I walked over to a another parked car nearby I knew was mine with the intent of getting in the driver's side.  I then awoke with my heart pounding. 

So much of this describes my ministerial past.  The table having to be passed out of my hands and responsibility into another position and place references my need to leave my authoritative place in the church.  I was scheduled to do so.  The strangers saying goodbye to me and my word farewell to them was my true departure from the church.  Their car parked beside the church denoted the church was their only destination.  My car parked (a vehicle in a dream means ministry) and my intention to get in and drive away reflected my destiny to be in ministry apart from the UMC. 

The link of the past with the present, to me, is the item numbers and reference to two years.  The first number was 101.  I saw the end of an espionage movie recently where a birthdate given in conversation was not the accurate date of one of the characters.  It was actually a code that gave another character a street address.  In my dream, I believe 101 was really a reference to October 1.  Rosh Hashanah was at the end of September.  We affirmed the beginning of a new Jewish year in church at that time.  Through prophetic words in my brother-in-law's prayer meetings at the end of the summer we all believed October would be significant.  In the Jewish calendar, it is important with it being the new year.  101 was the item number for the right ink cartridge.  121 will be sufficient.  121 could be December 1 (12/1).  

This dream could be telling us (that is, God in the dream could be telling us) this date or December itself will be sufficient/significant to us.  The day before, November 30, will be the first day of Advent, the beginning of a new worship year for those who follow a Christian liturgical calendar.  In fact, this calendar has influenced April and me in ministry more than the Jewish calendar.  As an aside, I went back in my journal to September 30, the day before October 1, to see if anything was there.  I wrote about a dream I had early that morning of Anna and me decorating a Christmas tree in my father's kitchen in his home in Baltimore.  Is this a link with December 1/Advent and the DVD of the Christmas worship service?  Months ago April and I dreamed separately of having a pair of Christmas trees in our own dreams. 

The two year reference is interesting.  This coming December will commemorate the two year anniversary  of my last Christmas as a minister in the United Methodist Church.  Why is Christmas referenced in these dreams?  Regarding two years, several days before we left our friend's house in Albertville, April stood looking out our back door and sensed she heard, "Two days."  Though we hoped we'd experience our destiny  fulfilled in two days, I sensed it might mean two years. Days in prophetic meaning in the bible sometimes means years.  Incidentally, we're still waiting. 

This dream gives hope to April and me.  I believe all the more we're on the verge of something significant.  With that said, and as I've said previously, I will use this medium as a record and means of conveying what God is doing in and through me for the reading of anyone who cares.   

Most importantly, the events and encounters displaying God's goodness recorded here will inspire praise and worship in the days and years to come.  I know this is my job, and it will be to his glory and to your benefit and the well being of generations to come.  Alleluia!