Praise and Holy Laughter-Sheryl

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“A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.” (Prov. 17:22)

 

Lord, I believe I have some understanding of the spiritual gifts and of our inheritance in You, but I feel I still lack wisdom in how to use them.  And I still don’t understand how to combat the anxiety that seems to instantly take over in so many unnecessary situations.  It seems to be my biggest need right now.  Please help me.  Grant me Your wisdom, strength and authority for this.  Increase my faith and trust in You in all circumstances.  Flip my concern and worry over people completely to compassion and wisdom in how You want me to help and what You want me to speak.  Please enable me to handle stress and anxiety as it threatens in such a way as it does not impact my blood pressure.

 

Hear my requests, Lord.  I believe they are righteous and consistent with living now in Your kingdom.  Your kingdom is among us and in us.  For this I thank You, oh Lord.  I praise You, Jesus, and worship You, Father.  Thank You for facilitating all these things, Holy Spirit.  I honor You and glorify Your Name.  Here I am Lord.  Let me hear from You.

 

Interesting–we are on the heavenly walkway today.

 

“There are no distractions here.”

 

All is calm beauty.

 

“Come walk with Me.”

 

We are looking over a railing into eternal blue and white skies.  There is something golden shining in the far distance.

 

“The throne room and all that surrounds it.  It is in the far distance because Your time is not yet to be there permanently.  Remember that.”

 

How do I turn off the anxiety, Lord?  I don’t want any of that.  I am feeling a little now just over Noval’s new phone set up, which I think is affecting my blood pressure.  That isn’t necessary at all.  What do I do?

 

“Praise and laughter are both good medicine…”

 

***

 

Wow, Lord, thank You!  I had never experienced holy laughter before.  I didn’t know one could ask for it and receive it like the gift of tongues.  Thank You for that.  I love it!

 

“And that was the lesson for today.  Go and enjoy those.”

Be Thou My Vision-Sheryl

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“Can you look into My eyes now?  Come up on the bridge.”

 

Yes, Lord, I feel more freedom now, more joy.  I see kindness and understanding in Your eyes–the promise of more and deeper understanding.

 


“And now you will let Me comfort you.  Let Me pour My strength into you.  Receive from Me your inheritance.  All authority has been given to Me.  I have taken back the authority I originally gave to man.  It was lost, but I have recovered it.  Now in the power of My Spirit again go and follow My example.  Give the good news, heal, deliver, set free, see miracles, lives made whole, bondages broken.  Freely you have received; freely give.  Be My hands and feet, My Body.  The kingdom of God is here, it is in you.”

 

Yes, Lord.  Be my vision.  Be my wisdom and understanding.  Use me to take back what the enemy has stolen.  You bring joy and peace and life.  I praise You.  I worship You as my All in All.

Listen, Learn, Tend the Garden Around You-Sheryl

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Thank You, Lord, for the visit to Joy’s family.  It was so good to see them again, though one day my blood pressure was too high.  I need to learn to deal with good stress as well as the not so good.  Thankfully, I am sleeping better.  I still have trouble keeping Your peace and joy.  Yesterday was great with the services with Andre Bronkhorst, lunch out with a number of church folks, and celebrating Noval’s birthday.  Thank You for family and friends.

 

Where shall we talk today, Lord?–Back in the glen as I thought.

 

“Unfinished business, Luv.”

 

I know.  The interruptions have been many.

 

“Why not write down your dreams now?”

 

Ok.  In the first dream Noval and I were in a courtyard outside of a school.  Bus #30 was waiting (maybe because I lived on 30th Ave).  Apparently, Noval had been giving me a ride home, but that day, at the last minute, he said, “You need to ride the bus today.”  That took me by surprise and the bus pulled away. 

 

I said, “I guess you are driving me home after all.”

 

He replied, again without explanation, “We’ll get you on the next one.”

 

I said, “That was the last bus and the only one I could have taken, #30.  Why don’t you want to take me home?”  I didn’t get an answer before I woke up.  I felt anxious, confused, and vulnerable.

 

In another dream I was at a school trying to get from one place to another.  The way was winding with steep steps that I had to hoist myself up on.  Paige helped me a couple times.  I don’t think I as anxious in the dream, but I don’t think I got where I wanted to go.

 

“Both dreams had schools in them representing life and its challenges.  The second dream is more the norm you want–to do life, accepting a hand at times from others, but navigating harder times with equanimity, even with a smile on your face. It is life and life is interesting and a bit challenging.  There is peace on the journey, no worry.

 

“The first dream shows more of where you are and from where you have come.  Options seem limited.  Those you trust seem to be letting you down with no explanation you can fathom.  No other options come to your mind and you feel stuck, hurt, frustrated, clueless.

 

“You mostly have mostly looked at things as black and white, things must be done a certain way.  When people don’t go along they seem to fail you.  You must take time to understand the people in your life and to consult Me as well.  You have experienced a pattern of seeming rejection until you expect it.  I say seeming because it is the way the enemy interprets actions to you, and you believe the pattern. You didn’t ask Me nor consult the other people involved.  So you constantly wait for the other shoe to fall with anxiety.  Let’s trace the history of the ways the enemy set this pattern up and persuaded you to buy into it.

 

“You had colic as a baby and though parents and grandparents walked the floor with you trying to comfort you, no one brought you ease or relief so to your infant mind no one could help though they tried.  You were taught from a young age a good work ethic, but the enemy used the brokenness of others to teach without blessing or encouraging.  Little to no praise came for a job attempted or done well.  You began to feel you didn’t measure up, weren’t up to the task, weren’t enough.  I tried to show you by answering your prayers at a young age that I was with you, that you could count on Me, that I cared.  You began to turn to Me more, but you already were not seeing your worth to Me or others.  You felt through young adulthood you couldn’t keep closely connected to the friends and family to whom you felt closest.  They moved or seemed to choose others over you.  You begged for a best friend.  I provided Noval early on and you clung to him as I wished you would cling to Me.  Noval, also being a broken human, also brought hurt at times.  Though he loved you this built on the feelings that you were not enough.  You continued striving, doing, creating, administering, getting worth through Noval’s accomplishments, looking for praise and the affirmation you continuously craved.  You still had not discovered that had to come from Me.  You have had painful times in the past 20 years in which you began to understand you are not in control yet you still want to be.

 

“Please learn from Me.  The Father created you.  The Son saved you.  The Holy Spirit indwells you.  Here is your worth that no one can take away.  You have many friends now who look up to you, love you, because they are seeing Me in you.  But for yourself you still feel anxious, lacking.  You are heir to the treasures of heaven.  The Father holds nothing back from you.  You are accepted in the Beloved.  Know that We are good and We want to share all We have with you.  You are enough.  You are Our hope for your little part of the world.  Tend the garden around you with the love,wisdom, expertise you get from Us.  We want you to succeed.  But do you truly trust Us?  Are We good?  If you don’t see an immediate answer can you believe I will deliver it at the proper time?  The more you rest in Me and know the answer is coming the less anxiety you will have.  The less anxiety and more trust you have will make the wait easier.  Come to Me for rest, for peace, for instruction in how to love where you are planted.  Come, look at Me and see the Father’s heart toward you and others.  Rest and learn.”

Seeking Shalom [Noval]

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Psalm 34:8014 [NIV]

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,

13 keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.   

Those of you who’ve followed our blog know I’ve been intrigued for a couple of years by the Hebrew concept of Shalom.  It’s often translated into English as peace, but it’s a whole lot broader than that.  Shalom means blessing, prosperity, order, flourishing. 

David exhorts us, if we want to “love life and see good days”, (34:12-14) to pursue shalom.   I’d interpret it this way: 

If you want your life to sing, to be filled with meaning and purpose and joy, work for the blessing, prosperity, peace and flourishing of your community.  Serve people.  Love on people.  Seek to solve problems and create abundance.  Work to eliminate the bondages, blockages and pitfalls in people’s lives that keep them from prosperity and flourishing.

Sheryl and I have been privileged for several months to observe and participate in Bob and Rhonda Krueger’s Purim Ministry in urban Richmond, Virginia.

[ https://www.facebook.com/PurimMinistries/?ref=br_rs

Twice a month Bob and Rhonda gather folks from Section 8 housing (and sometimes from the streets) for a Sunday afternoon worship service followed by a hot meal. There’s a clothes closet that people can visit.  They collect everything from canned food to small appliances to bedding to furniture for distribution to those who need it. 

Rhonda, both a home health nurse and a minister of the gospel by gifting and calling, is a passionate lover of the least, lost, lonely and left behind, the poor, abused and addicted.  She preaches a robust and full-throated gospel of liberation from bondage to sin through the cross that leads to transformation in all of life: physical, emotional, social and economic.  She and Bob (and their children, who are also enthusiastic participants) have taken David’s exhortation to heart: they are seeking shalom for Richmond’s urban core.

After Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem and carried many of the inhabitants of Judah into captivity in Babylon (~586 BC), Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiles containing an exhortation similar to David’s in Psalm 34.  (I’ve written about this before-

https://lifeintheriver.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/servant-leaders-in-exile/

but I think some of it merits another look).

Jeremiah 29:1-11 New International Version (NIV)

A Letter to the Exiles

29 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. (This was after King Jehoiachin and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the skilled workers and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.) He entrusted the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. It said:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 

Most of us can quote Jeremiah 29:11 from memory, but what intrigues me here is the backstory and the context.  The hope and future that Jeremiah offers the Judahites isn’t just something they’re to passively focus on and cling to while enduring the sufferings of exile.  No, they’re invited by God (through His prophet) to actively participate in creating that prosperity, hope and future.  

Bob and Rhonda have taken up David and Jeremiah’s challenge:  they’re seeking shalom and pursuing it.  Are we?

 

Look Into His Eyes for Joy-Sheryl

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“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Lord, I come seeking You again today.  I sense we are still not finished in the glen on the bridge.  I need You as thirsty ground needs rain.  You give me Living Water which is health to my whole person.  Thank You that I was able to enjoy Easter weekend, a beautiful time with You, Noval, Your people.  May I continue in Your favor with continued healing of my blood pressure.

 

“Look into My eyes.  You need to be able to do this for the peace and comfort you need.”

 

Open my eyes that I might see You.  Take away the veil.  Clear my vision.– Ha!  You are smiling at me, laughing at me.  I see the laughter in your eyes, the crinkles at the corners.  Laughing eyes are easier to look into.

 

“Ahh, remember that about your own eyes.  let Me take all pain and fear out of them, out of your soul.  For the eyes are the windows of the soul.”

 

And Yours is beautiful, perfect, and clear.  It shines in the purity of Your gaze.

 

“What else do you see?”

 

You have complete peace and joy in Your own soul.

 

“I do.  And now…I want to share those things with you.”

 

You are sharing Your joy.

 

“Joy in My Father is My strength and yours as well.”

 

Oceans of peace flow out, oceans of love.

 

“And faith comes in when you can trust Me for the best, to keep My promises without seeing a timetable.  If you had one it would not be called faith.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  But if you can tap into My love for you, My peace, and My joy trust comes more easily.”

 

Yes, Lord.  I love You.

Rock or Sand? [Noval]

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Here I am, Lord.  I’m listening, looking for vision.  

I see a big rock standing on a beach, on the shoreline.  It’s huge, rough, large enough for several people to stand on.  The surf crashes around it, splashing foam up on it.  The sky is blue, the water’s a deep blue-green.  It could be a scene in the Caribbean.  It’s a beautiful sunny day.  What would you like to say, Father? 

You’re studying My Sermon on the Mount, correct? 

Yes, for a CCTC class. 

How does the Sermon end?  

It compares two guys, a wise man and a fool.  Both guys hear Your words.  The wise one responds to your teaching with faith and obedience.  You compare him to somebody who builds his house on a rock.  The fool hears you, but he doesn’t do anything constructive with the information.  His life doesn’t change.  He’s like somebody who builds his house out on the sand. 

Then what happens? 

The storm comes.  The hurricane force winds blow.  The wise man’s house stands; the fool’s collapses with a huge crash. 

So what do the storms represent?

Life.  Adversity, setbacks.  Problems.  The pressures of living in a fallen world and a decaying culture.  Could be relational problems, financial setbacks, health issues, persecution, misunderstandings, habits, addictions. 

And the house? 

Well, one’s life, I suppose.  The whole of one’s lifestyle, relationships, finances; one’s character.  I think of the 4 categories in Luke 2:52: intellectual (wisdom), physical (stature), spiritual (favor with God), social (favor with man) facets of ones’ life- or lack thereof.  

So- the storms provide a useful function, no? 

Well, they reveal what kind of stuff  I’m made of, and my faith is made of.   Am I just hearing Your instructions but building my life on a totally different foundation: pride, selfishness, sloth, all manner of self-indulgence? Or am I truly building on the solid rock foundation of love, self-sacrifice, diligence, personal holiness, service, generosity.  And are these things truly coming from a pure heart or from pride: practicing my righteousness before men. 

So do you thank Me for the storms?  They truly reveal things to you that are important for you to know! 

Well, I know I should thank You.  Guess that’s why Your word says to give thanks in everything.  But in the rough and tumble of life, I confess that’s not my first inclination! 

There’s not a whole lot recently that I would characterize as “storms”.  Sheryl’s health problems- that’s been a storm for sure.  So is that something I should thank You for? 

Remember Paul’s wording carefully.  He said to give thanks in everything, not for everything.  That’s not splitting hairs.  I’m not expecting thanks for high blood pressure, but I think I deserve some gratitude for the reality that I’m using her issues to teach you both more about trust, rest, mutual service and interdependence, faith, patience, etc.  Romans 8:28 and all that.  I really am working this thing for good in both of your lives. 

And the point is not to go looking for storms or, worse yet, creating them so you can learn stuff.  No, that will happen naturally enough.  I just want to remind you that when they do come (and come they will) they always will show you something about your foundation, about the quality of your faith- if you remember to look for it. 

This is pretty much the same lesson as the two guys in Jeremiah 17, isn’t it? 

Pretty much.  The image is different- two trees in a drought versus two houses in a storm.  The drought came to both.  The quality and depth of their roots (i.e., faith) was revealed by the quality of the fruit they bore in the middle of the drought.  My servant John of the Cross wrote of the Dark Night of the Soul, an experience of going through an emotional and spiritual drought, where the conscious awareness of and delight in My presence seems to fade away.  As he observed, those experiences serve My higher purpose, too- to increase your capacity to walk in and live by faith and not sight.  The purpose is not to punish, but to strengthen and purify. 

Makes me think of the chorus we sing at church: 

Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise. 

When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say,

Blessed be the name of the Lord…. 

There you go!  So the point is to remember when the storm or the drought or the dark night closes in: My purpose is always to bring, ultimately, blessing, maturity, stability, fruitfulness and joy.  If you keep your eyes fixed on that reality, than you can give thanks and rejoice.  Maybe not for the drought and darkness and storm, but in and through them, for sure!

 

Look Into His Eyes for Love-Sheryl

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“His banner over me is love.” (Song of Solomon 2:4)

You are my everything, Lord.  I come for Your peace, Your joy, Your love, Your healing.

 

“You don’t have to figure it all out. Rest in Me.  Can you look into My face today?”

 

I love the comfort of Your arm around me.  Open the eyes of my heart that I might see clearly.  I find it hard, still, to look into Your eyes.  I can feel Your love through Your arms around me but when I look into Your eyes the love is so intense, so knowing yet so accepting.  I think it is the level of complete acceptance and unconditional love that comes only from You in such a pure intense form that is so hard to comprehend and accept as mine.

 

“But it is dear one.  You are accepted in the Beloved.  I have redeemed you.  You are mine.  The old is wiped away.  The new has come.”

 

Create in me a new, clean, pure heart, oh God.  Renew a right spirit within me.

 

“I will never cast you away from My Presence.  Why would I cast away the perfection I have redeemed and continue to reveal?  Allow My Spirit to continue to develop His fruits in your life.  Don’t concern yourself with gifts.  I give them as I will for the need of the moment.  Allow Me to lead.  Continue to speak your healing and to look for its manifestation.  Trust Me.  The more you look into My face the more trust you will have.  Peace flows out of trust and faith in Me.”