Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The One About Rocks....and God...and Israel

Israel is rich in archeological discovery.

I remember back in November, when I got to do a whirlwind trip into Israel with Azmera, to speak at the King of Kings Community church in Jerusalem, thinking that I couldn't remember a time when I had looked so closely at something as common & ordinary as rocks...So MaNy RoCkS!

But, each rock told a story (incredible!) of the history of God's chosen people.

And, I remember marveling at all that had been uncovered, and learned, about the culture, the people of the past, and the land of Israel.

So, this morning, as I was reading through my favorite go-to Psalm of David (#18), the word "rock" struck me in a new way in this verse:

The Lord is my rock;
my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock,
in whom I take refuge,
my shield,
the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2

The Lord is my rock! 

I have often referred to my husband with a number of descriptors.

My most quoted phrase is "tall, dark, and drop-dead-gorgeous." 

However, I've often referred to him as the rock of our family.

When I say this, I'm talking about the security he brings into the mix...

I'm referring to his faithfulness, his calm assurance when the world around us seems to be caving in...

I'm thinking of how the man I see in the pulpit is the same man who holds my hand in the midst of every-day...

He's the most reliable and God-trusting guy I know!

For David, it seems his thinking went an entirely different direction when he spoke of God as his rock...

While poetic, the word can be somewhat ambiguous, until I pulled the descriptors out of David's psalm:

Shield - A rock held in front of us can deflect all kinds of harmful objects.

Horn of Salvation (animals use their horns for defense...). So take it a step further...a rock can be a weapon - while in Old Town Jerusalem our guide informed us that while no weapons are allowed in the Old Town, rumor has it that the mosque is filled with rocks, which can be used in battle, if necessary. 

Stronghold/Refuge - For David, a rock in the form of a cave, became his stronghold. When running from Saul, a cave became his safety and refuge...his protection.

All military terms.


For David, the Lord was the I AM YOUR PROTECTOR....

GOD is all this for me...for us! 

There are times, we will feel exposed and without help. I certainly have!

There are times when it will seem the odds are stacked against us. Yep!

There will be moments when we wish we could step up and defend our character, because no one else will... Check!

There will be times when everything seems to be AGAINST us... Uh huh!

Throughout life we will all fight some tough battles.

Maybe not military ones, but physical, spiritual, emotional, relational, occupational, intellectual, and even environmental...

Without God, the ROCK, in our midst, we are defenseless, offenseless, and vulnerable.

So, I wasn't surprised when in researching the word "rock" in the past history of Israel, one of the things I discovered was that as Israel was declaring her independence in 1948, a fierce debate raged about the name of God that would be included in her official Declaration of Independence. When a compromise was reached, instead of using a traditional name for God, He would be referred to as "the Rock of Israel." 

How significant!!! 

How perfect!!!

He IS all this and more!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The One About Routine

I am a woman of routine.

Without routine, my whole emotional state begins to crumble.

With that, my spiritual health, as well.

From there, the rest is down-hill:

*  My typical health-driven eating habits are nil; opted most often for fast food, because it's just & convenient (lately it's been zipping into Chick-Fil-A for a frosted coffee, oh my!)....

*  It's hard to sneak away to my quiet sit-place with Jesus.

*  Or to create space for the walks I rely on to clear my head, create new messages, and start writing whatever next thing needs writing...

And yet, I am also a woman who travels some little bit.

Routine is constantly disrupted.

When "on the road" there really is no schedule that accommodates my normal get-the-day-going-sequence.

So, little things start to throw me off:

*  I don't sleep well.

*  Social media can leave me self-critical, and consumed with toxic thinking (comparison, mostly...and we know what comparison does, right? Robs us of joy).

*  I'm easily annoyed.

*  Lazy.

*  Self-centered, narcissistic.

And, the days, which can, at times, turn into weeks, are also lived off-kilter.

*  I live by the next thing that drives my crazy schedule...

* ...whatever calls for my attention the loudest.

*  Internal peace is obliterated.

This isn't me complaining.

It isn't me whining.

But, as I sit here this morning to type a new blog, I realize this AS FACT (!):

I thrive best on routine.

In EvErY way ImAgInAbLe!

It's how the Lord has wired me.

But, more than the lack-of-routine, I need the self-discipline of creating a new-normal inside the abnormal, out-of-control-times of life.

I know what I need! And...

 ...only I have the ability to make the time for what I need.

Perhaps you are like me...and your crazy, whirl-wind-cycle of life has you in the same predicament.

So, I drop these words into an empty-blog-space for both of us.

Because the biggest TRUTH for me when it comes to no-routine is that I don't simply just exist to live from day to day, my whole world starts to unravel.

Unraveling takes a long time to fix.

I know.

I have had to rip out stitches, and unravel, big sewing and crochet projects.

Going backwards is not time, energy, or emotionally efficient;

And, sadly, backwards is where I've been heading...

THIS WEEK, THIS Scripture verse dropped into my lap:

This, this right here, just a phrase, caused a little heart comotion:


It's just a little Greek word (etho) translated custom, wont, or habit.

It's only used four times in the New Testament (three times referring to Jesus' habitual lifestyle, and once regarding the apostle Paul).

However, the word has such depth to it.

Basically, it speaks of CHARACTER.

Both Jesus, and Paul, daily leveraged their customary habits of life, and these behaviors were indicative of their CHARACTER!

Those who knew them, knew them by their daily routines.

Routines say A LOT about who I am.

About what is important to me.

Both Jesus and Paul lived their lives "on the road."

My life compares in NO WAY to theirs.

Neither man had a normal.

But both men set an example of finding normal in the abnormal of their everyday.

As a result, every person KNEW THEM at THE HEART-of-their-LIFE level.

Here's what this says to me...this week...this I sit in an airport (AGAIN) waiting to fly out on a twelve day trip to Israel:

I AM what I make my NORMAL, even in the midst of a NON-NORMAL life.

You will know me by what is important to me.

And, what you see right now is NOT WHO I WANT TO BE.

So, WORD received.

Heart convicted.

And, "have this attitude that was in Christ Jesus" and make it my own...

And, create space in my life for that which I know is critical routine in my everyday...


Before ALL ELSE....


Thursday, February 14, 2019

The One About What Women Want

Hubby and I returned from Cuba on Tuesday night...late!

One would think that with Cuba being only 90 miles off the coast of our country, the trip home would only take few hours.

If, like me, you think that way, we would be so wrong.

Eighteen hours from door to door made for a long, long, day...especially after a wonderful, but full and busy, week of ministry!

(our flight after we de-boarded, just sitting on the tarmac, waiting for a pilot who was stuck in Houston traffic...a normal 45 minute drive, which took him 3 hours to get to work...#journeyhomeproblems)

So, waking up this morning, and realizing it was Thursday, and I'm committed to be somewhat regular in posting a blog, but knowing I hadn't really processed my week in Cuba fully..................well, let's just say I was less than prepared for a Thursday Thought.

HOWEVER, there is a little "but God" coming.

As I walked into the kitchen in search of my morning cup of coffee, a wee miracle occurred.

You see, I have always declared (and, while it sounds a bit humorous, there is more truth than humor to my statement):  "Even Jesus won't talk to me until I've had coffee!"

(Ok, here it is) BUT GOD!!! I heard just one little whisper to the ears of my heart (there-in-is-the-miracle).

And, so, I've grabbed onto that whisper, and I'm spinning a thought or two around it.

By now, you are hoping those thoughts are brief.

Here is what jumped from His mouth to my heart:
"Women-in-the-church EVERYWHERE are all the same; and, we all want the same things."

We do!

It's what makes it so much easier to go to other countries to speak.

Our hearts are knit together in desire of the same wants.

What are they?

As I sat with women to pray, as Bay and I prayed over husbands and wives together, as we held question and answer sessions, the focus was this:
1) We want healthy, happily-ever-after marriages.

2) We want our husbands to serve the Lord with us.
3) We want children.
4) We want those children to honor the Lord (and, us...OK... more-so-us than the Lord) with the way they live their lives.

5) We want our children to be MORE: more successful, more happy, more godly, more financially secure, more problem-free than we were, are, or will ever be.

There was a thought that kept re-occurring to me, however, and I wondered, how many times as we come to the Lord do we ask the right question:

Lord, here's what I want, but what do you want?

So, on this Valentine's Day, I remember that first and foremost, God wants our love. It is the greatest commandment. The "Shema" in the Old Testament, re-quoted by Jesus (see the opening passage above).

Then, Jesus says, "If you love me, you will show it by keeping my commandments..."

Right there...this is Jesus' answer to women everywhere, 
"Want to know what I want even more than happy marriages and contented children?"

"Your love!"

"Your love shown by doing this life according to My words!"

"You seeking me above your wants...even if (especially if) it is counter-intuitive to your wants."

And, what burdened my heart as we ministered to women in three different regions of Cuba is that these women are just like all of us............looking for ways to get around Jesus' commands..............wanting someone to concur with our wants, justifying them, excusing them, waving a magic wand over them...

But God just wants our HEARTS fully committed, loving Him, seeking His will...

Turning from our ways to His ways (Exodus 18:20)...

"teach them God's decrees and instructions, and show them the way in which they are to walk"

Our God has gone to great lengths to love us!

So, on this day of loving others by going to great lengths to show it to them, I want to re-commit my heart to loving Him first, most, and best...and showing Him in tangible ways.

Ever asked what God's love language might be?

God's love language is my response to His Word!

On this day, I re-commit to His way above all.

To ask: What Would Jesus Want? before I look at what I want...


Oh...and, P.S.
When we set in motion our plans to love Him with our all and all?

Well, there is this:

Let's just not get things out of order...

Love Him first.
Delight in Him.
Follow in obedience.
Then...just see what He will do!

Monday, February 4, 2019

The One About A Lesson Learned in Cuba

As I post this, Bay and I are on our way to Cuba with a team of six.

The following was written a few years ago after another trip to Cuba.

Since, I'll be in Bayamo when it is normally time to write and post a blog, I'm doing a repeat.  

I'll share more about the current trip when I return.

It was a Wednesday night at church.  

Services are held, the pastor told us, twice on Sunday morning, once on Sunday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday night.  Imagine!

His “congregation" numbers somewhere around 500.  Most of his congregation comes from within the neighborhood, because they have to walk to church.  There is no parking lot.  

The church “hopes” to build a new facility just up the street.  The pastor wanted to show us the property after worship, and have us pray over the land with him.

The pastor’s current church facility is a one room building designed to hold about 75 people max.  

This Wednesday night must have been pack-a-pew night.  

However, it was unlike any pack-a-pew night I’d ever witnessed.  

It was definitely more like pack-a-pew night-on-steroids.  

For certain, it would have been a US fire marshal’s nightmare.  

People just kept coming, and coming, and squishing onto the hard benches they call pews, and standing alongside the walls. When I thought they couldn’t get any more people in, they filled the center aisle – and stood through the whole service (I know we ended with over 200 people...). 

We were the honored guests; we got the front row – right in front of the fan.  Ah!!!! It had to have been in the high 80’s with about 90% humidity.  

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the smell, and I don’t mean the smell of perspiration, which in itself presented a problem. I mean the sewer smell.  Wafting in through the open windows (keep in mind, there’s no glass on any of the windows) came the odor of raw human waste so strong it could gag a person.  

But…I’ve never experienced worship quite like this night.  

There were no projectors.  

No power point presentations.  

No words to the songs on screens above. 

No YouTube videos to engage the audience.  

No skits, no stage sets, no greeters with programs, no child care classes.  

Could American's even worship in this kind of setting?
Would they?
I wonder....

Ah, but there was a guitar player, a drummer, and a few vocalists with microphones. They led. Everyone followed…everyone sang…everyone clapped…everyone cheered…”amens” and “hallelujahs” were frequent.  
Even among the littlest.  

There were announcements.  

There were long passages of Scriptures shared.  

There were prayer requests and prayer.  

More singing.  

The pastor got up and shared (Was it a message before the message? Could have been.  It was in Spanish, so I don’t know).  

More singing.  

Then Bay was introduced.  He spoke, using a translator, which doubles the amount of speaking time.  Still people remained squished.  They smiled.  They shouted.  They clapped and cheered when he said something they liked.  They engaged with ALL THEIR HEARTS.  

Many found Jesus that night, and there was more celebration! 

Then, it dawned on me…
Church in Cuba is not something to do; it is not simply a place to go; it is an EVENT!  

It’s not about the worshippers getting something; it’s about participating and giving something to the Lord.

This thought was solidified after the service.  I overheard one of our team members saying to one of the worshippers in attendance (through a translator), “I love your worship!  There is so much energy in your church!  Are you always so enthusiastic?”  I locked eyes with the gentleman, watching as tears began to pour down his face.  He thumped his chest, turned to our teammate, and sincerely replied, “It is all we have to give!”  

It is all we have to give.  

Yet, honestly, it is more than I’ve ever seen given in a comfortable, sweetly smelling, American worship center.  

It is all they have to give.  

It is all Jesus wants us to give!  

I want to give this generously!  I want to give from my all…  I want worship to become not just a place to go, and, not even an event, but THE EVENT of my week - the highlight!  

I want to be asked about my personal worship, and with all my heart, be able to say, "I give out of my all..." 

That would be the kind of worship Jesus talked about with the Samaritan woman - worship that is in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).

Just a question (because it's a question that frequently crosses my mind): 
Do I give my all when I go to worship, or do I expect worship to be more about what I receive? 

The honest answer to that question says a lot about what I value...
The honest answer says a lot about what's really in my heart.


A sample of worship:
(if the link doesn't work, copy and paste the URL into your search engine)