Friday, January 30, 2015

The Aircraft Carrier Dream (Some Days In January)

Two consecutive nights, I dreamed of being a college student.  There was no exam anxiety or assignment tension.  I was just a student attending classes.  April looked up the meaning of a student in a dream.  One of the meanings struck me.  It means what is past is coming into the present.  It could also mean a time of higher learning and submission in your life.

In a previous post, there's an account of a recent encounter with the Lord that refreshed my prophetic gifting (Some Days In January).  The past came forward into the present to renew my spiritual anointing in the area of the prophetic.  I was renewed, but what am I to do now?

I dreamed a couple nights ago.  I was at some kind of outdoor celebration involving a lot of people to whom I ministered and supported spiritually while a pastor in Marshall County.  This celebration commemorated the ending of something significant.  

It was time to leave the party.  I had to go into a brightly panted yellow building to leave the celebration (yellow means hope & gift of God).  I entered the building, and it was dark.  I could go nowhere but up a metal flight of steps.  I climbed the steps. I reached landings after each flight of stairs.  I wondered if anyone was following me.  I wasn't sure I was following someone ahead of me within the poorly lit stairwell I climbed.  

Suddenly, I realized I was in a large ship, an aircraft carrier.  Also, I was accompanied by Mark Harmon reprising his role as Jethro Gibbs in the TV show, NCIS.  We were going up together to the flight deck  When I made it, it was a beautiful day, and we were at sea.  I stood under an overhang.  I glanced back at Gibbs and wondered if he was coming with me.  He stood in front of a couple who looked at him, waiting for him to lead them elsewhere.  He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders as if saying he had to go with them.  I turned from him, and the dream ended.

A day later, as I walked in the morning, I prayed the Lord would speak to me.  He did. 

The aircraft carrier dream was remarkably similar to a prophetic vision a friend had about me a couple years ago. The Lord reminded me of my friend's vision just after I prayed for the Lord to speak.  In Taylor's vision, I ascended a mountain.  I got off the path and began to climb up through underbrush.  Staying on the path would lead me to the summit which was my destination.  Going off the path would get me to the summit quicker, but it was a more difficult track. At the summit, I laid aside a bag I carried.  I thought I would need what it contained, but I decided it wasn't necessary.  On the summit, I sprouted wings, lifted off and flew to unknown destinations.  

Climbing the mountain was climbing the steps.  I believe Gibbs was an angel who accompanied me up to the deck, but who wasn't suppose to accompany me to the next place.  Leaving the bag behind was like leaving Gibbs or the party. The bag could be ministry skills I won't need while leaving the farewell party could be the end of ministry relations.  Reaching the summit and sprouting wings to fly feels like making it to the flight deck where jets leave and from where I will fly to the unknown.  Before it was a carrier in the dream, it was a mountain in the vision. 

I believe I am at a time when God is reminding me of what I've been told in order to be prepared for what is coming.   God is about to do a new thing.  In these days, I'm learning afresh what I was told but in a contemporary fashion. These are some of the things I was reminded of this month. The focus is to be on today and not yesterday.  I am a prophet for today and for the future.  Oh, how he loves me. There are those things previously essential and even valued that are now left behind because I won't need them for where we're going. 

Through dreams and visions, encounters with God in worship or scripture reading, the Lord is sharing afresh his heart with us.  I'm doing my best to record and compile these events with reflections incorporated.  All I want to do is make God famous, and everyone who reads or hears from me to know he can be trusted.  

May the Lord share with you in a language you understand his destiny for you.  Its a wonderful time to be alive.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Better Than Life (Some Days In January)

Over several days in January, including two nights of worship with April, I played two playlists of worship songs on my laptop on random play, about 17 hours of music.  In these times of worship, How He Loves, sung by Kim Walker-Smith, played regularly to the point of annoyance.

During one night in worship, it played again, and I thought to myself, "If it plays again tonight on this particular nine hour long play list, God's telling us something."  Sure enough, in 20 minutes, Kim was singing again, "Oh, how he loves us."

A couple days later I read from Psalm 63.

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name. -- Ps. 63: 1-4

I know the mathematicians would discount my perspective of Kim's song playing so often as a sign with a message for me.  They'd say I clearly don't understand the statistical probability of that song playing so often with the number of songs playing randomly is not miraculous.  The regularity was bound to happen some time with some song.  Regardless, it was a message to me.

With all that's happening and not happening in and around us, I believe it was essential for our Father to communicate to us these we're loved beyond any realm of understanding. 

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us so
 

I don't think it would hurt my mathematician friends one bit if they got bitten by The Hound of Heaven, and overwhelmed by the grace that is an ocean.  They'll all be sinking. 

And, be you a statistical genius or confused by arithmetic, in general, God's love for us is better than life, itself.  Life is an interplay of positive and negative forces flowing to the lowest point, floating to the highest level, growing uncontrollably or resorting to compost.  God's love is directed and irresistible. It is encountered.  Our calling is to embrace this eternal reality in order to share its truth and inspire others with the divine possibilities embedded within.  Encountering afresh, God's affections remind us God's eternally good.  He's better than we can imagine.

Nothing will satisfy me more deeply than my God.  In the Presence, in my experience, I beheld and perceived, sought and found the Lord.  

The Lord's love for me is steadfast; better than a temporal, mortal existence with its suffering and dissatisfaction.  I trust such love is without equal in expression and essence.  I claim it as a gift from my Father.  It is on me and within me and sustains me.  It is my life.  It is my soul, my spirit.  I am born again by virtue of the Hesed of heaven, steadfast love.

You love me.  Without change.  Without wavering.  Without altering.  Praise God! I am loved!  Oh, how he loves us.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Some Days In January

The Super Bowl was slow in coming.  The pitchers and catchers report for spring training weeks from now.  Hockey is boring, and basketball isn't interesting until March. What could we possibly expect from January except frigid nights, disappointing TV programming and fresh academic workloads with the start of a new semester?  Maybe God will speak to us?

A few nights ago, I dreamed of a football team.  I was the coach.  The members of the team weren't athletic, at all.  Young adults to middle age adults, they were dressed in light blue blouses or shirts.  We met in a school library.  One of my brothers-in-law was there, but he sat with his back to me.  Everyone seemed reluctant about playing.

The next evening, April and I worshiped together.  I endeavored to practice the Presence by being still and listening and worshiping.  After a while, I asked the Lord subtly for a word from scripture.  "Zechariah 7: 14 in The Message" came to me.  The text is edited to conjoin verses 13 and 14.

“So [this is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies said] if they won’t listen to me, I won’t listen to them. I scattered them to the four winds. They ended up strangers wherever they were. Their ‘promised land’ became a vacant lot—weeds and tin cans and thistles. Not a sign of life. They turned a dreamland into a wasteland.”

After some time, I made eye contact with April.  She asked what was up.  I told her about and read to her Zechariah 7: 13-14 in The Message translation.  She said it sounded similar to what she got in the Spirit - Matthew 25: 3, When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them.  April didn't feel moved by these words, at all.  In fact, she felt they came from the enemy.  I said the Matthew passage seemed to confirm what I felt I'd heard.  I believe we were told someone hasn't heard and remains foolish.  They're scattered, ill-prepared, and their promised land is a vacant lot.  Regardless, I believe the Lord has spoken.

I dreamed that night of being a baseball manager standing in a dugout. The team was incomplete.  We didn't have enough players. Perhaps the players are scattered on the four winds and abandoned their promised land.

The next morning I read some verses which seemed to say the Lord is truly at work.

Praise the Lord!  Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. -- Psalm 149: 1

And,

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.  I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. . .  I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. . .  For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring.  -- Isaiah 43: 18-19, 25; 44: 3

I believe the Lord is speaking, and we're recipients of evidence.

That night, I dreamed again.  I recall images and impressions.  I was in the mixture of a former church I pastored and my father's basement.  I dreamed I worked at the church again, in addition to working at a nearby radio station.  I wondered openly if I should seek an appointment/church assignment as a pastor before ordination later that year.  The dream ended with a small snake in my father's basement curled up in the laundry room.  It was either two-headed or coiled with another identical snake.  I found a shovel.  I didn't want to kill it.  I scooped it up and put it in a bucket to take it outside.


I told April about the dream in the morning.  She said it all had to do with my memories still having an effect on me.  The snake was black with red stripes.  Red is warfare, and black is anger.  I didn't want to kill the snake.  I didn't ignore it, but I wanted it removed from the house.  The memories that still spawn negative emotions in me should be removed.  Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.  I am about to do a new thing (Isaiah 43: 18).

Later that morning, as I wrote about recent dreams and events in January, I listened to worship music. As I listened and wrote, I was surprised, surprised by the Presence.  The Presence of the Lord overwhelmed me.  April came in the room and found me singing and crying with my arms raised.  It was wonderful!

After the worship set ended, I went into the bedroom to get ready for a shower.  I kissed April, got undressed and overwhelmed again with laughter and tears (but there wasn't any music - how can this be?).

I made it into the shower.  As I washed, I prayed for those who've influenced me.  I didn't go any further than Bill Johnson.  I prayed in agreement for anything he was passionate about in faith in that moment.  My shower continued, and I recalled the Lord saying to me years ago, "Jeff, what if you are a prophet?"  That morning in the shower, I cried again and recalled saying years ago, "Then I need people in my life to teach me what it is to be a prophet."

As I remembered this, the though came, "I am a prophet."  If I was a prophet back then, God needed to bring people into my life to teach me.  Bill came via CDs through Cindi Lucas, a United Methodist evangelist.  I haven't been the same since.  The Presence of the Lord overwhelmed me again in the shower.  Alleluia!

January is a cold month for anyone in the northern hemisphere above the tropics.   Its after Christmas, and its long before the warmth and beauty of spring.  It could be a period of prolonged depression and cynicism.  Its natural to be a little pessimistic about what may be coming around the corner if you heard optimistic news in January.  That being said, the Lord has made himself known afresh to us episodically while asleep and awake. 

Pardon me, but I'm renewed with hope and joy because my Daddy God has spoken to us during some days in January.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Psalm 102 In The Message - A Review


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

While I sought the Lord's direction at a time listening for a voice from heaven, I read some verses from
Psalm 102 in The Message translation. It was God's heart. It was God's voice. He surveys the earth,
hears groans of the doomed and opens their cells to freedom. Tell the world what the Lord has done and is always willing to do.  Alleluia. 

This revelation so blessed me. It gave me a picture of my Father who so loves me and so loves everyone.
A few months ago in reading these verses again and feeling nostalgic, something dawned on me. 
The psalmist in The Message translation told me, "Write."  Again, the Spirit through the psalmist spoke
loudly to me, "Write!" 

I was already journaling to record what the Lord was doing and saying to us, and what we'd experienced. 
Now, the command to write was heaven sent. I'm suppose to record what's going on to inspire worship and praise for the generations to come.  So, I write.

This is why I blog.  This is why I journal.  I invite you to read my posts not because the writing is award worthy, but, because I want people to know what God is doing, and he can be trusted.

Alleluia.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Young Ravens

He gives to animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry.  His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner; but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love -- Psalm 147: 9-11 

My team, the Ravens , lost Saturday night to the Patriots in the AFC divisional playoff round, 35-31, in Foxborough. 

Anna watched the game on television with April and me.  Eli watched it from Florida.  He and I texted back and forth.  April observed Anna pacing and standing still watching the game just like I did, and I told her about Eli texting me.  She said our kids love me because they root for the Ravens just like I do.  That thrills me.  There are things they love I love. 

My sweet children mourned with me when they lost. They rejoice with me when the Ravens win. I know I've expressed disdain for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens primary rival, in front of my children over the years.  I've refrained from public acrimony directed at my favorite teams' chief rivals - Steelers for the Ravens and Yankees for the Orioles - because I didn't want to legitimize a degree of hatred in front of my children.  Regardless of my best efforts, they've both expressed hatred recently for the Steelers.  I admit it. It made me laugh. 

We share a passion I didn't expect.  Its part of our relationship.  I called my father Sunday morning before church, asking him, humorously, if he saw the game.  We laughed and talked and shared our own beliefs and reasons for the defeat.  Its part of our relationship.   

Some of the most distinct memories I have of sharing space and time with my father are accounted for as recollections of sporting events, significant Colt/Oriole/Raven/Terp/Bullet games we attended or viewed on a TV.  Its something we've shared.  Its part of our relationship and history.  I love my father more because we've shared in these experiences.  We made memories. 

I was a chaplain intern at a hospital while in seminary.  There was an elderly couple whom I got to know there.  The wife had an extended stay on the floor I served.  She suffered from dementia.  The husband struggled with her condition.  One morning while he sat outside her room while the nurses tended to her needs, I met him.  He was teary.  I spoke little and just sat with him.   

I then had the inspiration to ask him if he'd seen the baseball game the night before.  Oral Hershiser of the L.A. Dodgers was on a scoreless inning streak that approached a record, and the Dodgers were on nationwide television that night.  When I asked him, his eyes became bright and his demeanor changed from a hopeless husband to an enthused sports fan.  We talked about this pitching feat without ever losing the context of being in a hospital outside his wife's room.  We shared something that was beyond him being a husband of a suffering wife and me being a chaplain. Sports was the medium to broaden our relationship and love for one another. 

Psalm 147 mentions young ravens in the NRSV translation.  Ironically, I read the passage Sunday morning.  The young ravens cry.  We didn't mourn to that literal a degree.  It was enough for my kids to grimace at the loss along with their dad.  It made it bearable.  We made memories. 

I am thankful for my relationships with my children.  I love them dearly.  We have things we share. 

Our God finds pleasure in his children who value and embrace his unshakeable love for them.  We have a relationship.  We make memories.  Regardless of the abilities or success of a running back, I take pleasure in the relationships I have with my lovely children.  I will always love them.  I'm thankful to God for the memories we make.                                

Monday, January 5, 2015

These Hallelujahs Be Multiplied (100th Post)

On New Year's eve, 1738-9, seven of the Oxford Methodists and some sixty others held a watch-night service and love feast in a religious society whose rooms were in Fetter Lane, London. John Wesley wrote:
"About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his majesty we broke out with one voice, 'We praise thee, 0 God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.'" Whitefield pronounced this to be "the happiest New Year's Day he had ever seen."-- wesley.nnu.edu/chapter-vii-revival-preaching

Happy new year!  Alleluia!  Thank you, God, for 2015!  Again, alleluia!

New year's day morning was wonderful!  April ran across a song by Need To Breathe on Pandora, Multiplied.  I had never heard it before.  It just seemed to be an anthem for this year. "And these hallelujahs be multiplied."  Hallelujah, which is a version of Alleluia, is translated from Hebrew to be "Praise the Lord."  May the expressions of praise to God be multiplied this year.


Later that morning, Faith Blatchford, a friend on Facebook, posted, "Year of 2015 - Worship, presence, increase."  Sounded like to me a reason for multiplied hallelujahs.  I commented, "Yeah, baby!"

A couple days later, I was sent a prophetic word given by preacher & teacher, Patricia King.  "This coming year is a year to remember My (the Lord's) promises, no matter what you see happening around you -- My promises are sure, and they will prevail for those who believe. . . . Tumult, shakings and turmoil will fill the earth, but those who stand on My word and live by My promises will be blessed beyond measure. . . . I am inviting you to make a quality decision to live ONLY by My word and promises.  If you choose this direction, I will bring you into an abundant place and you will stand secure and blessed in the midst of an evil day."

Kris Vallotton, from Bethel Church in Redding, CA, spoke on the first weekend of the new year at the Toronto Airport Fellowship at their Heavy Rain Conference.  In his second message, he shared some essential keys for success as a Kingdom person.  First, he said, be present in every moment.  Secondly, be thankful for the life you live.  In the last two points, he quoted two scriptures formational for me.

Kris said it's important to have a Big Yes in your life, a reason to get up in the morning, why you're alive.  A vision from God to empower our lives restrains our options and keeps us focused.  Keeping and defending the Big Yes, there are battles to wage to defend what we've been told and given.

I am giving you these instructions, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies made earlier about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight -- 1 Timothy 1: 18.

I was given this scripture by a friend years ago who told me the Lord gave her this verse when she was praying for me.  Kris said fights and battles and struggles should be expected by any follower of Christ. The prophecies and visions given to us position us to face opposition and resistance.  

The other scripture Kris quoted formational for my life the last few years was Luke 18: 7 - And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night?  Will he delay long in helping them?  He went on to speak about the importance of never giving up in the affairs of the Kingdom, and what God has conveyed to us.  The widow in the story refused to quit petitioning the judge for justice in her case.  Resistance and combat are bound to come for those who've devoted themselves to following what they've been told.  Again, don't give up!

There will be the multiplication of expressions of praise this year.  There'll be moments, periods, prolonged times of worship and experiences of the Lord's presence.  Many manifestations of the Father's compassion for this world will increase.  We will be challenged to focus on what's been promised and declared and to never forget the vision conveyed to us individually and corporately.  There will be combat and resistance, but those who stay devoted to the end will receive the prize.  Alleluia to the Lamb that was slain!

April reminds me occasionally of a dream she had months ago.  She was a bird.  She was overcome with fear she would die if she flew over the nearby waterfall.  She was then caught in a current of wind that carried her over the waterfall and, simultaneously, caught in a current emanating from the falls that joined in the wind and forced her to gain speed and descend.  She knew if she resisted the currents, she would surely die.

We know what it has been to work for our own ends and persist in trying to accomplish what is not in our means to achieve.  We haven't thrived in the things of this world.  We are left with promises, dreams and a vision.  Virtually, everything else, with the exception of our family and love for one another, has vanished or been taken from us.  

Yet, I declare in faith, like the Oxford Methodists with John Wesley and Geroge Whitefield, as the hallelujahs multiply, we will encounter and experience the overwhelming glory and majesty of the Lord, and this country, like theirs in the 18th century, will not be the same!

God of mercy, sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied