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.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Unless the Lord Writes . . .

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.

Unless the Lord guards the city,

    the guard keeps watch in vain. - Psalm 127: 1

God seeks covenant partnership with us, partnering with his will and way.  Are we to partner with God in building the house?  That's the question. Then, we ask, "Who's house and why?"

For us, its learning what it is for the Lord to build the house, guard the city, and what it is to partner with the Lord. 

Is it predominantly hearing his voice?

I know what it is to take the lead, initiate the action, follow my heart first.  I know what it is to labor in vain.  I know what it is to be rescued by a merciful hand and what it is not to be.  

On my way home from work yesterday, I listened to a live album of Bob Dylan.  There came a rendition of Like a Rolling Stone.  Back in my youth, it was the first Dylan song that touched my soul. 

How does it feelHow does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

I'm so familiar with it I'd compare it to an old pair of jeans.  Nothing could compare to the comfort of wearing them.

As I sang or spoke along with Bob, something was stirring up within me.  It was an artistic feeling, a creative arousal associated with writing.  I'm not a painter or sculpture or cinematographer, but I've felt the calling to document feelings, impressions, testimonies and encounters.  The artistic bent arose in me again yesterday as I listened to a favorite song.  Its hard to describe.  I venture to say what is growing in me artistically is a kinship to how I feel about Like a Rolling Stone.

As I slipped into the comfort of this pair of pants metaphorically, I sensed my personal history with this song, the joy of singing it, and a familial linkage between it and what will yet come forth in the future from my calling to write.  This may not make sense.  It may even sound boastful or arrogant, but the song has a sibling-like connection to me.  What has yet to emerge in my writing but is embryonic within me feels like family to Dylan's piece.

Putting Psalm 127 in the story, which was the evening psalm yesterday in The Daily Office, it dawned on me the significance last evening of that first verse and my emerging creative sense.

Unless the Lord builds the house, the labor is in vain.

The irony of this verse in light of my experience can only be attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit.

I've known for quite a while my writing will only be what its meant to be if it is surrendered to our God who inspires how I express myself on paper and computer.

Unless the Lord builds the house, the labor is in vain.

My ability in expression is limited.  My writing has not matched the work of those of far less life experience but much more skill.  Simply said, I can't compete.  My business isn't to compete but to follow the inspiration and the passion and labor accordingly.

Psalm 102: 18-22 is the keystone to it all, and anything I compose must first be measured in how close it comes to fulfilling the mission in those verses:  write what will inspire praise for God who will first and foremost set the captive free.

The Lord does not mystically guide my hand in writing like so many have imagined the authors of the biblical record composed scripture.  The Lord building this house has been done and will continue to do it through inspiration and passion evoked out of me.

What is to come, I believe, will be of God's building.  I'm a partner with the Father in what will yet be composed, built, created.

I thank you, great God, for your gifts of grace and mercy in these days.

Build what you want in and through me.

Guard what you build.  I trust you first,  Alleluia.


Monday, October 9, 2017

I Know Your Heart (Send In the Clowns)

You speak to me in languages I understand.

When the Lord communicates to me in words, notes, impressions I value, I've come to trust it is God speaking.  The Lord loves me and speaks to me in media I get, frequencies I receive.  If its in forms I don't get, I'll have to pursue such.  I'm trying to keep my eyes and ears open so I can be healed.  Alleluia.

One night last week at the banana table in the grocery area in the store where I work, Ronnie, one of the vendors who I prayed for and declared words over a couple weeks ago, approached me.  He told me how much he appreciated my prayer and prophetic declaration I voiced over him another night at a Walmart in Anniston.  He'd been having a hard day.  The word was on the mark and helped him a lot find peace and hope.  I was thrilled he told me and experienced what he did.  I told him I was glad.

During my shift, bits and pieces of one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs floated around in my head.  I never bit the hook and recollected the whole song in my soul like I do so often when something triggers my mind to cite a piece I know.

The shift ended, I headed for the car, tapped my Spotify app and started the shuffle play function on my oldies play list.  The song that floated in my mind started to play through the car's speakers, Desolation Row.

I've known this song like an old friend since I first heard it in the '80s.  I sang along with Bob as I drove home, and it made me smile.  Amidst the music and lyrics filling the car, I came to a relevant discovery that evening.  I was loved by God.

Ronnie came to me out of the blue and thanked me, telling me how much my prayer meant to him on his long, tough day when I was simply moved by compassion when I saw him in Anniston.  I'd been bating around phrases and lyrics from a familiar song at work.  I then clicked the shuffle play button on a 55 song playlist and the same song in my soul played immediately.  I'm sorry, but I believed our God spoke to me in a language I value.  By so doing, I knew I was loved by Ronnie's testimony and a song from Bob.

As DR neared conclusion, I considered reaching for my phone to strike pause on Spotify.  I couldn't do any better than that, but curiosity convinced me to wait and see what song would crossfade into my hearing.

My mood was inspired.  Another song could ruin it.  Perhaps, God would not speak to me in the next cut.  That would be OK, but ya never know.

I let the song begin.  DR was a joy from my young adult years.  It was like a gift to hear it in random fashion.  My Father knew what would please me.  I'm loved.  The second song, a live performance, I found on a suggested album.  It's beautiful rendition and a classic and quite a surprise when it began.  Send In the Clowns performed by Judy Collins.  It came as a surprise like a gift.

I've considered the thought of admitting I was in a faith crisis these days without acknowledging it.  DR was an old friend coming to my door, coming in and giving me a hug.  Send In the Clowns is not a song I'm familiar with, though beautiful and melancholy.   Its more mature, more serious, and more to the point of how I've felt these recent weeks.  It was as if I opened the gift wrapping and found a panting of a still life scene that left me speechless as if God told me, "This is how you feel.  I know your heart."

"Where are the clowns?  Send in the clowns."

These lyrics depict a relationship of lovers going in different directions.  I've felt maybe I'm missing God; maybe he's somewhere I'm not.

Where are the clowns?  Send in the clowns.  I'm waiting and hopeful for the child-like frivolity and unbridled joy of days past as I trusted what God had promised us to return.  The clowns symbolize the carefree air of a relationship with God that was fun and silly and without restraint.  I long for it.  Where is it?  Daddy God, where have you gone? Where am I?

"And, where are the clowns?  There ought to be clowns.  Well (Jeff), maybe next year."

He caught me.  God set me up with a gift of simple love in knowledge of what I value followed by a word from one adult to another and conveying a knowledge of how I feel that words can't adequately express. 

Send In the Clowns conveys the feeling of separation I know these days from God, but my Lord still spoke to me.  That evening at work it was told to me through a testimony, an old song like an old friend and a surprising piece of music as a gift how close to me God really is.

My Lord knows me and heard me.  The Lord loves me and speaks to me in a language I understand. Despite my feelings, the Lord is not ashamed of me.  It was important for the Lord to say that to me.

Yes, my Lord can be trusted still.  Alleluia.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Pens From Heaven

After several weeks of being quiet in the blogosphere and limiting my writing to journaling, I felt inspiration return to me this week after seeing an article in Charisma Magazine.  It was a blog post from Bill Yount, a prophetic word.  It brought great encouragement to me in light of what I was told years ago, and what I was told to do, as well.

I saw gold pens falling out of heaven onto the earth as though they were being thrown by the angels like javelins into the hands of unknown people. I saw these pens turning into spears and swords as they fell into these hands. As their fingers began to write, books, songs and poetry were becoming lethal weapons to war against the enemy!
Psalm 144:1 was being activated throughout the earth: "Blessed be the Lord my strength, who prepares my hands for war, and my fingers to fight."
In the Spirit, I saw huge warehouses in heaven that appeared to be full of books, songs and poetry. I noticed these books had no titles on their covers or any words written on their pages. These were wordless books, blank bundles of sheet music and empty pages of poetry stacked high to the ceiling. A sign was over the huge door that read, "Stationery to Be Released and Published in the Final Hour Upon the Earth."
I heard the Father give a command to the angels: "Empty those warehouses and deliver to the earth! There are books yet to be written, new songs yet to be sung, poetry yet to be recited that will woo hearts back to Me. Drop the pens down first and empty those warehouses!"
I heard the Father say, "I'm releasing a 'scribe anointing' upon the earth!"
When we still lived in Albertville and pastored a house church after leaving the United Methodist Church, I was reading Psalm 102 in The Message paraphrase and the word "Write" jumped out at me.  I was already journaling our experiences and encounters with God for years and Psalm 102 in The Message, verses 18-22, was already imprinted on my soul.  That morning, however, I was given a new addendum to my calling in this world.  I believed then I was responsible to write with divine purpose.  Something was reborn in me.  When I read Bill's description of pens coming to earth for the unknown recipients to become scribes with anointing from heaven, I thought, "Well, of course."

I then recalled a trip to Atlanta in 2014 with family to worship at Bethel Atlanta. We arrived and found out they offered prayer by those with prophetic gifting.  All of us received prayer and some words from sweet folks.  One of these folks saw several notebooks on a table, and I was due to receive four or five downloads from heaven of great ideas that would outlive me.  
After a self imposed sabbatical from formally writing for public consumption and consideration, I'm reminded of what I've been told and promised.

Last week, I read one of the psalm readings in The Daily Office, and it gave me fuel for prayer these days.  Psalm 119: 33-40 gave me petitions to bring before the Lord - teach me, give me understanding, lead me, turn my heart, turn my eyes, confirm your promise.  I believe, as I'm writing this, the Lord has confirmed a promise to me through Bill Yount a promise to me.  The downloads are due to come to me still, and they have to do with my writing.

I invite you to stick with me as I follow inspiration or struggle with putting pen to paper and fingers to keys to record what God could be saying or doing in and through us these days.  I believe I'm one of the ones with a pen from heaven.  Join with me as we find out together.  Also, let me know you're out there reading this blog and praying for us.

Grace and peace to you.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Days of Elijah by Surprise

Our daughter, Anna, attended a church in Auburn, AL in February where she received what was believed to be a prophetic word from a guest preacher.  In his word to her, he said she and the family could expect this spring to be full of supernatural surprises.

Thursday was full of moments of discouragement.  There was also a moment in conversation with April when I told her I had to commit to believe the Lord's words and promises all over again that day.

There are days when I resign myself to the discouragement and just look for things to distract me from thinking about our circumstances.  Nowadays, perhaps in light of the fact God has not been silent since the first of the year, I've determined it is my responsibility to declare to myself, heaven and earth and my partner in life that God remains faithful and will do in us and through us what God's promised.  Alleluia.

Worked last evening, amidst the cucumbers and the cardboard and markdowns covered by fruit flies, I encountered the discouragement once again.  It was as if a personality all its own came beside me to tell me all was lost.  A flag began waving to worn me of the spiritual intruder confronting my spirit and all I believed to be true. 

I rose up within myself, spoke of what God has promised us, believing as if I picked up a weapon of my choosing, clothed myself with joy (its my strength) and took to the fight.  The melee was short and sweet.  I told myself I was choosing joy and belief.  God was our good Father who had not forgotten us.  We are anointed, commissioned, comforted and at peace.  Alleluia.  The attack was over.

When I got into my car and headed home, I simply turned on the radio looking for something to entertain or inform.  At the top of the hour on The Moody Radio Network, I found the opening sounds of a song I recognized with my heart.  It was a song from the CD, Revival In Belfast, by Robin Mark (1999). 

Back in the 90s, I took my first leave of absence from pastoral ministry.  I was fairly certain I wasn't returning to formal ministry.  After my mother passed away in '97, I knew I had to withdraw from the demands of ministry to mourn completely and to reassess my needs and values in life.  In this process, I joined a prayer group at the church where April was on staff.  We'd meet on Sunday evenings, listen to praise music and then pray together.  It was in this setting I first heard Revival In Belfast.  I've said in several settings to different people this CD had a role in saving my life in those days. 

As I listened afresh to Days of Elijah, I stopped singing along and just listened to the lyrics.  What dawned on me was so many of the images and scriptural references are either part of the original vision for us, allude to encounters we've had with God over the years or echo scriptures brought to us by Holy Spirit since January. 

These are the days of Elijah  . . .
(Right off the bat, these are the days unequalled.)

These are the days of great trials
Of famine and darkness and sword
Still we are the voice in the desert crying
Prepare ye the way of the Lord!

(I was moved weeks ago by Isaiah 40 and Luke 3 where this preparation is described.  God has not been silent.)

Behold He comes, riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun at the trumpet's call

(This sounds so much like imagery from Revelation which April has been studying for weeks.)

Lift your voice, year of Jubilee
Out of Zion's hill, salvation comes

And these are the days of Ezekiel
The dry bones becoming flesh

(Back in Albertville, God came to me in a dream about the book of Ezekiel. I think about this often.)

And these are the days of Your servant, David
Rebuilding a temple of praise

(This captures the vision of our farm - a thin place where heaven meets earth, and God encounters people in worship.)

And these are the days of the harvest
The fields are all white in Your world
And we are the laborers that are in Your vineyard
Declaring the Word of the Lord

(The days of harvest have come.  Its always been our passion to declare the word of the Lord.)

This song came to me as a pleasant surprise, a gift, actually.  Grace is even more accurate.  This and so much of this CD brought healing to me when I needed it. Some of the other songs, Garments of Praise, Shout to the North, Revival, Jesus, All for Jesus, greatly contributed.  It was foundational in raising my passion again for God and his kingdom.  I returned to pastoral ministry in 2001.  The next year or so I had an encounter with God awakening me to a prophetic gifting. 

Spring is suppose to be a time for supernatural surprises for this family.  This was a surprise, a subtle, simple surprise on a night I fought the simple fight of confronting an attack by the enemy and affirming the goodness of our Papa God still at work in our lives. 

These days are rich with potential.  Even now, we see the Lord working our way and our walk as we affirm his promises in us and for us. 

I've been inspired for years to give testimony of what God has said, has done and is doing.  This is a plain depiction of what our God gave to me as an unmistakable token of grace to his son.  These days are unique and not through yet.

Behold He comes, riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun at the trumpet's call
Lift your voice, year of Jubilee
Out of Zion's hill, salvation comes

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

God Engages the Church

Lying in bed, Sunday morning, I signed on to Facebook and watched the opening portion of a video blog post from Frank Schaeffer.  He's the son of Francis Schaeffer, the Calvinist theologian who wrote prolifically about the influence of secular humanism in America and influenced the founders of the Religious Right in America.  Frank parted from his parents' beliefs and ideas years ago and is an outspoken opponent of the same conservative movement his father influenced.

In the post, he referred to his father and some of the people he influenced.  That led me to look for videos of Francis.  I found an interview conducted by Pat Robertson on the 700 Club in 1982 with Dr. Schaeffer.  I remember watching it in real time in '82 and being fascinated.

I watched several minutes of the interview again.  What caught me Sunday morning was what caught me in '82 on a different level.  He said he wanted to get Christians out of their pews to engage the culture

He wrote and spoke in his lifetime about how America's Christian culture has been circumvented by a humanistic worldview that relativized morality and spirituality and left this country without a devotion to God and any divine influence in politics, art, entertainment, education, etc.  He wanted the American church to arise and confront what he understood to be the organized opposition to Christian influences in this country. 

Engage the culture.  What's interesting to me is he spoke and wrote of the need to confront the known opponents (Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Hollywood, colleges & universities, etc.) by first confronting and engaging the church.  He found fertile ground in conservative, Reformed congregations, denominations and televangelistic ministries.  Conservatives, particularly evangelicals, awoke by virtue of Dr. Schaeffer's books and lectures and those of others from their post-Scopes Trial hibernation to vote and lobby for conservative Christian based standards throughout the culture.  Jerry Falwell, Francis Schaeffer and the aforementioned Pat Robertson were their spiritual influences, and Ronald Reagan was their political champion.

Engage the church.  As ordained clergy for over 20 years, I endeavored to engage the church into ministry outside the confines of a sanctuary.  There were some episodes of success, but the insistence on my part and my wife's part (who was also an ordained clergyperson) for the church to reach out was difficult because our biblical standards and worldview were not always shared by many in the church.  Again, there were the occasional successes, but most congregations were much more interested in having pastoral leadership that defended their beloved churches from radical changes to their racial homogeneity and class orientation. 

I'm still oriented to engage the culture by first engaging the church (its my family), but what happened Sunday in worship captures where I am and what I value in my relationship with Christ and his church.  My experience leapfrogs over any engagement I might have with culture or church that has any reformist or political connection. Sunday, we encountered God.

In a small congregation in Anniston, AL, April and I have attended worship on Sundays for three months.  Its our new worship family.  We've grown comfortable with the pastors and the environment of love for God and love for neighbors. 

Sunday's worship environment was relaxed and peaceful from our place in the sanctuary.  As worship in song began, an energy filled the room.  By the time the congregation joined in singing John Mark & Sarah McMillan's, King of My Heart, the energy became a wave of the presence of God (I know what that feels like) that buoyed hearts and spirits in the room.  I interpreted what followed was that the wave of the Lord's presence raised the tide of worship and hope.  What it did in me was prompt me to intercede in prayer for everyone in the room.  The air was pregnant with the compassion of God.  Again, this was familiar to me,  I recognized it.

The musicians, two guitarists and a vocalist, moved into spontaneous playing and vocals.  The praise became more demonstrative and overt.   Heather then moved into words of knowledge.  She said, in this environment, miracles happen.  She pronounced conditions and issues that were being healed and restored.  With the rising tide of worship, there was growing faith.  When the music portion of worship ended, our lead pastor, Royal, said we've witnessed, "heaven kissing earth."  Amen.

We witnessed our heavenly Father engaging the church like a passion-filled encounter with your spouse that leaves you breathless, believing all things in your relationship are now possible.  What could be the results of such encounters for a congregation?  God in Christ through Holy Spirit imparts grace upon grace and peace that passes all understanding.  Our Papa God captures us in his grasp, and we curl up in his lap and know we're safe.  We grow more and more comfortable with whose we are and who we are, our Father's cherished children.  We're assured again he forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases.  We're baptized in God's embrace as he breathes on us his Spirit.  We then discover our gifts from the hand of God which empowers our lives and our witness of what we've discovered from such regular encounters.  God engages the church.

With a refreshed spirit and a rejuvenated relationship with our God who is love and is faithful, we can't help but engage the culture.  This occurs through communicating in word and deed the power of grace and divine mercy in Christ through testimonies of what God has done and is doing.  Deeds of compassion to the hurting, lost and suffering begin to be on display out of the simple reality that we know we're loved, and we know for certain the one before us, stranger or friend,  is also loved in the same way by the same great, eternal God.  We can't help ourselves.  We now engage the culture through love and truth.

Are there political ramifications or the necessity to gather like-minded people together to strategize how to engage the culture to bring about necessary change?  In light of grace-filled, glory-filled encounters with a holy God who loves unquestionably everyone and who loves to display his Fatherly goodness when and where praise is offered freely by his children, the only strategy is to love like Jesus loves, and trust his empowerment given to his church in the power of His name, the power of His blood and the power of Holy Spirit inside and outside the church property.

This power doesn't justify anything the privileged does under the mantle of the church.  This power goes on display through the humble and the lover and the servant.  It is a certainty a single believer or a gathered body of believers will engage the culture through love and truth when this same person or group has regularly surrendered in faith to their loving Father and grown to know him as he is.

In love with his children, our Father engages us when we seek him.  When we find him and encounter his heart, we are urged by his Spirit to engage the culture, share his love and believe the results will change everything.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Lord Hasn't Been Silent

Sometimes peace and comfort for my soul only comes to me when I write.  For some, this may be true when they play their musical instrument or draw or paint or exercise or eat a cheese burger.

I was told to write years ago by, who Bob Dylan called in his 60 Minute interview years ago, the Chief Commander.  When I write, I feel his pleasure.  The problem arises when I believe I have little to nothing to share, but something stirs within me to write, regardless.

This is one of the reasons I live and breathe, to give testimony to what God is doing so that many generations now and in the future will join in worshiping the Lord (Psalm 102: 18-22, The Message).   

To this point in writing and posting, I thought I'd be recording significant acts and events attributed only to God.  I thought I'd be documenting miracles and manifestations of glory and power from heaven to earth.  In actuality, I've recorded mostly what I've dreamed or heard in my spirit or what my loved ones have encountered in the Spirit. This isn't disappointing.  Its curious.  

Again, I find myself motivated to write what I saw in a recent dream.  I believe it was the Lord giving me a pearl of wisdom to direct my faith and passion.  

For the last six or so months, I've prayed two verses regularly.

Do not be silent, O God of my praise. - Psalm 109: 1


O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God! - Psalm 83: 1

Well, the Lord hasn't been silent.  My prayers have evidently linked with what the Spirit wanted to do, to speak.  My prayers have led me to be more attentive to what the Lord has wanted to say, or has been saying already.  Perhaps, I've paid more attention.

In the aforementioned dream, I simply saw a scripture reference, Isaiah 40.  The Old Testament chapter is attached to John the Baptist's ministry.  He proclaimed a baptism of repentance and Luke associated some familiar verses with John's message:

      He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the    forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,“The voice of one  crying out in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight'". - Luke 3: 3, 4

I've read and meditated on this chapter repeatedly.  I've come to the conclusion this chapter was given to me, to us as a fresh word to focus our attention.  This chapter is a signal that things have changed for us.  I want to share what I believe the Lord is telling me about these days.  Again, I'm giving testimony of what the Lord is doing.  He's speaking, and I'm doing my best to listen.

With the text of Isaiah 40 as the blueprint, I believe I'm told, first, comfort is due us.  Second, we've endured double in our waiting (verse 2). This echoes the double portion promised in Zechariah 9 spoken to April on Christmas morning.

Recently, in a prophetic word, we were told to get ready.  Verse 3 speaks of a voice saying for the hearers to prepare the way of the Lord.  For us, I believe, this says the same thing.  Get ready. Prepare the way.  I simply trust this calls us to believe steadfastly, believe he is about to act decisively for us and through us as he's promised.

Every valley filled and every mountain made low, all made level like a plateau, like Sand Mountain (a true plateau).  Perhaps we now can say the roller coaster times, highs and lows, are ending.  

We're to look for opportunities to be bold to announce his appearing, "Here is the Lord! (verse 9)" Our Lord is coming with might carrying his reward and gathering his loved ones to himself.

In the verses that follow, the prophet asks the hearers to consider what the Lord truly is, what the Lord can do, and do we compare anything or anyone with the Lord?  This caught me because when my faith has waned, I'd ask myself if God could or would do what he's promised.  Really, in moments of shallow faith, did I really know the Lord?

In between these questions, the nations are referred to as nothing, a drop in the bucket (vss. 15-17); idols for the rich and the poor abound (vss. 19-20); princes are nothing but dust (vss. 23-24).

These verses describe for me what is and may yet go on in these days.  The nations seem to be in tumult, but we're reminded they are nothing in these days (not necessarily a target of our focus). The rich can purchase what they want (even idols), but the poor must make do (even with the idols they can afford).  Finally, princes in these days come and go simply because of how the wind blows (Gov. Bentley comes and goes, Presidents come and may go as easily, UM bishops believe they're secure by virtue of their consecration or maybe not).

We've said for years it appears we've been hidden.  As if we've said, “My way is hidden from the Lord,  and my right is disregarded by my God” (verse 27).  The Lord says through the prophet the Lord is everlasting and does not grow weary but gives strength.  Then we who've waited for the Lord shall experience renewed strength.  Like the word I received from a friend years ago, we shall mount up on wings like eagles.  We'll run and not be weary, walk and not faint.

The Lord has not been silent.  This chapter from scripture was given to me, I believe, to direct our faith to what is at hand for us and through us in these days.  I haven't been able to document the miraculous, but I've compiled a record of words and accounts of spiritual encounters both awake and asleep.  

The Lord has not been silent in our lives.  How has the Lord been speaking to you these days?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Prepare Your Minds for Action

I awoke Friday after dreaming.  I was in a house of happy, playful people in the dream.  The environment itself was sloppy and chaotic.  I had some form of authority there, but I can't recall the degree.  As the dream progressed, I knew I had plans on leaving and going oversees, but I didn't want to tell anyone. I was just about to leave their company, the dream began to fade to black, and I heard a voice say, "You're called to do this."

The epistle lesson in the Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer on Good Friday was from 1 Peter 1.  Verse 13 struck me.

Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.

The preparation and discipline for coming action I like a lot.  With a comforting sense of hope today on me, I can easily focus and trust in the grace from Christ coming to us in revelation.  Alleluia.  I am truly encouraged!

Is it merely because of my dream?  Is it by virtue of scripture confidently received and digested into my spirit?  Yes to all the above!  God has spoken to me in language I understand and value.  First, my dream life is an avenue of the Spirit's communication to me I've learned to appreciate. 

Verse 13 comes from an author who followed Jesus and is quoted in the Good Friday morning's gospel lesson conveying self assurance that he'd never leave Jesus, but its Jesus who tells him in the next moment he'd be the one to deny Jesus three times that evening.

Secondly, the language of irony to bring a point to light has always been a means of communication I've valued.  The Lord is speaking to me these days.

April and I are becoming more aware the Lord wants us to grow more comfortable with who we are as a couple and as individuals with callings on our own lives. We're preparing our minds for action.  As I've written recently, I believe the Lord has spoken to us who we are and not to forget. Again, the words of Peter, Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.

Though traditional, liturgical Christianity calls believers to temper down the celebratory nature of Easter the days before in Holy Week and recall the suffering and abandoned Christ on the cross for the sins of the world, I remember our Christ died on the cross once for all.  I was struck with two videos and a song on Friday that spoke to my spirit and mind.  These artistic expressions I embraced passionately and reminded me who I am and whose I am.  My mind is being prepared for action.

The first was a song that played on my shuffled playlist of 12 hours of music on my iPod.  It played twice in ten minutes.  I'm inclined to believe the repetition of this song was the Spirit's language to me.  God often speaks to me in music.

The song, Jesus, We Love You, from Bethel Music on the album, We Will Not Be Shaken, is a simple contemporary worship song.  It encouraged me to openly praise my savior I love by name, Jesus.  It also came to me that morning as I felt the fresh wind of hope in my life.  For this alone, I was moved. 

I heard it once, then I heard it again.  This time the verses spoke to me.

Things that we thought were dead, are breathing in life again.
You cause your Son to shine on darkest nights.
For all that you’ve done we will pour out our love,
This will be our anthem song.
Jesus we love you,
Oh how we love you,
You are the one our hearts adore.

One could think and believe things are dead, but Jesus breaths life into us and shines despite our darkness.  We pour out our love in song and speech.  Jesus, we love you.  In experiencing his grace first, I respond in love.  This is who the Lord is to me, and this is who I am, a child of God who loves his savior.  This prepares my mind for action. I shared this lyric video on Facebook Friday morning.

I then posted a video from the movie, War Room.  Its a story of a family that learns the spiritual life and power in diligent prayer to our God who hears.  This scene shows the wife defiantly declaring to Satan in her home Jesus is Lord of this home, and he cannot have her husband, marriage, children or her joy.  

Many in Christendom do not believe in the personification of evil, but this belief is not necessary to be a Christian.  I believe Satan and his minions exist.  We've suffered from spiritual attacks and warfare over the last few years like never before in our lives because, we believe, we've said yes to God and his callings on our lives.  This scene spoke to me Friday. It is vigilant and encouraging.  My mind is preparing for action.

Lastly, I posted on Facebook a video from Puddles the Clown singing Pinball Wizard to the tune of Folsom Prison Blues.  It simply made me happy.  The fun and slightly creepy performance entertained me a lot.  It spoke to me.  It told me, again, who I am, what's fun for me, and that's ok.  God still loves me, and this is how God made me. 

Sometimes being prepared and disciplined for what's coming begins with knowing afresh who you are.  Simply stated, I love Jesus who first loved me.  I'm aware of what evil lurks in darkness, and there is necessary combat.  Finally, joy and fun can be found in this world in various, innocent forms.

Am I called to travel overseas in a calling from God?  I can't say for sure, but I'm preparing for action by thinking and knowing you I am and whose I am.  I invite you to join me in preparation.

Monday, April 10, 2017


Several years ago when I was reading, again, Psalm 102 in The Message translation, I was captured surprisingly by the simplest of words. The word was, "Write."

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

I'd been journaling for years and blogging for not quite as long.  I wanted to share what I believed the Lord was telling me, showing me or what I was witnessing and then giving testimony.  This blog was conceived to do this. The single word got me back on track. 

My passion returned to write, share, declare what I believed God was saying and doing in and around us.  To be honest, the voice was often a whisper and the divine actions were subtle and small, but I returned to one of my God given purposes with passion, to record what God had done, and it will ultimately inspire worship all over the world (That was a bold statement!).

I link in this post that single word and related inspiration to another single word that came to me this weekend.

First of all, like I wrote in 2014, I didn't think I'd write again after not recording anything significant for months.  Something's been stirring in my belly for a couple weeks, but I couldn't put words to it.  This weekend gave me a set of ideas and experiences to string together that depicted for me what God wanted us to capture afresh.  I now find myself writing what I believe God has communicated to us.  Write, Jeff!

April and I watched Friday morning the webcast of The Voice of the Prophets, an annual conference of Global Awakening.  Larry Randolph preached on the importance of securing or recapturing your focus in ministry.  It is so often related to a location and always related to adaptability, to be able to change the hows and whens in ministry. 

After the message, April and I debriefed.  She asked me what I thought.  I said we'd forgotten Mary's first word to us.  Mary is a woman who approached us after worship at a church we were attending for the first time in February.  She said, "The Lord is not through with you.  Don't sit down."

The last several weeks, we've looked to sit down at this wonderful, gracious church and the husband and wife that pastor it.  We've nestled ourselves in this congregation because we've experienced the love and acceptance we've looked for these last couple years. 

We went on to agree together Larry's message was for us.  We've ignored the vision and calling to minister on Sand Mountain to stay intimately connected with this church and make strategies to secure our own housing in Anniston.  Such a plan is a short term abandonment of the bigger vision and calling.  Larry said for us to posture ourselves so we don't lose sight of our calling.  We've been on the verge of losing our vision.  God brought this message Friday through Larry for our sakes.

Christmas morning, April believed she heard the Lord give her a scripture verse for us for this year, Zechariah 9: 12:

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

I then told her as The Message translation of Psalm 102 expressed simply to me years ago, "Write," Zechariah 9: 12 says, "Return."  We're supposed to return, focused on  the return to Sand Mountain and our calling.

Saturday afternoon, we drove to Sand Mountain on US Hwy 431.  It had been a year since we visited the mountain, to listen for the Lord's voice to perhaps give us direction or inspiration for our return to establish a base for ministry first on a farm and then in a regional church (Last year, April encountered Jesus in worship where he asked her if she'd pastor a regional church on Sand Mountain, and she said yes).

As we approached, ascended and traversed Sand Mountain on 431, both of us felt the Lord's presence, prayed out loud to hear his voice, cried off and on and worshipped.  Of all the roads we travelled and places we entered and left that afternoon, it was Albertville and Boaz, to our surprise, that felt most like home.  It was driving through the middle of Albertville I heard April say out loud, "I love this town"  Of all the things we said to each other and to God that day, this surprised us most.

Evidently, it will be on this end of the mountain and this section of Alabama we'll find the farm, buy it and steward the portal of God's presence, the thin place, to see the deliverance, healing and salvation of so many in the years to come.  This trip secured this in our spirits and souls. 

We've been refreshed in our faith to believe we're suppose to return to Sand Mountain and engage in ministry.  Our calling is renewed within us to stay focused and postured for our return to where God has called us.

Have you lost your focus or vision for where you're suppose to go and who you really are in Christ to be?  It could be just a single word that'll come to you that will reorient your spirit to what God had originally called you to do or be.  A single word can get you back on track. 

I'll believe with you the Lord will posture you to pursue his will afresh.  Don't worry, nothing's been lost or forsaken.  Just look again and return to the path.