Saturday, September 25, 2010

Experiencing God's Goodness Through People

Seven years ago I was preparing to host an open house to celebrate Kyle and Michelle's wedding with all our Florida friends.  Kyle had been serving with Word Made Flesh in Kolkata for a couple years, and had met and fallen in love with Michelle when she had volunteered there the previous summer.  They'd been courting long distance most of the year and had gotten married in Wisconsin in July.   We wanted to host an open house for our many friends in Florida to meet Michelle and visit with Kyle who had been away - at school and then India - for so long.  Our house is plenty large enough for David and myself, but rather compact when considering having 100-150 people over.

My friends helped me plan the menu and spent hours helping me prepare a number of the dishes.  One made several desserts and spent the hours during the open house plating hors d'oeuvres and cleaning up.   One friend ran a food pick-up for me, and one friend with mad scrapbooking skills took an hour or two to lead me through making wedding photo posters - a process that would have taken me days by myself.

One friend even helped me clean out and organize my garage a couple weeks prior to the event (a mountainous task that had been overwhelming to me) to gain much needed storage and prep space for the party supplies and food.  On the two nights of the open house, because my friends had been so good to me, sharing their time and expertise, I was able to fully relax and enjoy all our friends and Kyle and Michelle.

I experienced the same kind of goodness in getting set up for Sam and Amber's wedding rehearsal dinner.  Family and friends helped us prepare food, set up tables, displays and games and made short work of the clean-up at the end of the evening.

Over the years I've learned to know myself, in part, by noticing how I differ from the motivations that drive us, the ways we work and communicate, our skill sets and preferences for doing things together or by ourselves, etc.  Though I've spent waaay too much time moaning about my dismal rate of productivity over the years, I've worked to exchange moaning about my weaknesses for a willingness to ask for help and gratitude for the people in my life with the skills, gifts and willingness to help me bring about the plan I've envisioned.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Counting Blessings

holy experience

101.  While taking Prema to school in the mornings this fall, I've seen the pastor who served as Kyle and Sam's middle school pastor.

102.  He's still at it - caring about kids at one of their most awkward stages, investing in their lives with prayer, fun activities, group Bible studies, and opportunities to serve.

103.  One of Kyle's and Sam's high school teachers stopped by the lot where the new house will be going up when he saw David and Kyle working the other day.  He too, invested himself in the students way beyond the requirementsof his paycheck...he cared...and it showed.

104.  These two have made me think of many other men and women who served as teachers and pastors and coaches during our sons growing up years...who served, who cared, who invested in my children.

105.  Amber's posts about people who encouraged/influenced her made me think about all the "everyday folks" who gave of themselves in the small church in which I grew up...

106.  the older gentleman who cut out wood parts for our VBS projects

107.  and his wife who taught us girls some hand sewing skills

108.  who together offered their acreage for the annual sunday school picnic

109.  and who served corn picked fresh from their garden and cooked in massive quantities

110.  the pastor's wife who always seemed glad to see me no matter how much I was interrupting her day
(she never let on, but now when I look back I shudder at how often I barged in to "parsonage"

111.  and who cleaned the church sanctuary every week  (did we pay her?)

112.  and could keep us kids interested in the flannel graph stories she wove

113.  in a voice so quiet we listened intently to hear her

114.  and the three pastors who served during my growing up years at that small neighborhood church

115.  who knew me personally

116.  and visited my family

117.  sometimes just to connect

118.  and sometimes to comfort

119.  who never seeemed to mind my interruptions of their study time to ask them questions

120.  who never made much money, but kept caring about people, investing in lives.

121.  I'm grateful to live in a neighborhood where I know and like my neighbors

122.  and their dogs

123.  and a spirit of helpfulness and cooperation is the norm.

124.  I'm grateful we got to see the incredible, full rainbow

125.  seemingly springing out of the water by the boat ramp at thelake

126.  during our casual family bike ride late Sunday that turned into

127.  a rainy biking adventure

128.  where the shower refreshed us with its drenching

129.  and brought cooler temperatures this morning.

130.  I'm grateful for my husband who shows his love for his family by acts of service

131.  and provision

132.  and for two sons who do the same.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Daily Gifts

holy experience

This week I give God thanks:

101.  for honey bees

102.  that have lived within our walls for more than a year 

after they first came to visit "the homestead"

103.  with their gentle nature 

104.  and their daily work

104.  of harvesting and making (in addition to pollinating plants)

105.  honey....its distinct taste.

106.  for the hope and inclination to find a skilled beekeeper

107.  willing to give instruction and move the hive to a better location in our back yard 

108. for sitting on the curb with my 3 year old grandson

109.  on a hot sun-drenched morning

110.  after he finished explaining the A/C system of the John Deere tractor (riding toy) to me

111.  listening together to the squirrels quarrel

112. and the birds sound

113.  and seeing three honey bees fall to the ground

114.  and two different butterflies dance for us.

115.  for brushes and paint

116.  for glorious color

117.  for little boys who love stories and books

118.  and moms and dads who wisely feed that hunger and stoke that fire

119.  for the satisfaction of long-distance bike rides that our sons are doing together

120.  and the physical and emotional benefits

121.  for the privilege of getting to know our sons as adults

122.  and watching our daughters in law "build" their lives, their homes, their families

123.  for the gift of music

124.  and David's pleasure in playing trombone

125.   and in the "community" that takes place in band and orchestra rehearsals and performances

126.  for "family/community dinner" nights at our house

127.  the discipline and joy of planning and preparing house and meals

128.  for the connection and conversation and deepening friendships

129.  for C.S. Lewis 

130.  and his "Chronicles of Narnia"

131.  and David's enjoyment of the same 

132.  for Leanne Payne's knowledge and perspective of the writings of Lewis

133.   and her sharing her marvelous intellect and insights with us through books and lectures

134.  for delicious conversations with good friends

135.  and paintings that make my heart sing 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Only One Savior

I had already practiced the much-needed discipline of telling myself, "I am not the junior holy spirit!" regarding insights or changes I thought might benefit my husband, when I discovered Leanne Payne's wonderful intelligence and insight and her passionate knowledge and experience of Jesus.  Either Listening Prayer or Restoring the Christian Soul through Healing Prayer introduced me to Leanne's writings, and very quickly I devoured every book by Leanne that I could get my hands on.   I have read most of her books at least twice and have given away numerous copies to others.  I currently have Listening Prayer, The Broken Image, Real Presence, and Healing Presence on my bookshelf.

I came across Leanne's writings about 15-20 years ago when I had been getting my toes wet in the waters of intercessory prayer, bringing hurting people to God's throne, asking for His grace and mercy for them. Influencing others is one of my strong personality traits and since I had been barred from teaching at my church and I hadn't developed the necessary disciplines and skills to write and publish on a regular basis, I moved toward the next best thing for someone not allowed the use of manipulation tactics or holy spirit status - prayer on behalf of others.  I felt like God had done so much renovation work in my own life and I was hungry to see Him use my prayers to help others.

Leanne Payne's understanding of the psychological and spiritual processes at work in our lives, and her teachings about the presence of God in our lives - incarnational reality, the role of forgiveness in healing prayer, the writings of C. S. Lewis, the dangers of inviting gnosticism and Jungian symbolism into our thought lives and Christian communities has been a skillfully sharp sword in my life, and I could quote many passages that have helped me over the years.  

I am choosing a passage from Listening Prayer that confronts and exposes a type of "prayer" that has been around for centuries: substitution.   A quick scan may not yield its treasure,  so I encourage you, if you spend any time at all helping, praying for or mentoring others, to read it again when you have the time and focus to read it fully and use the very specific prayers.

"When we receive the gift of tears and strong crying out to God in intercession, we are not given special merit.  Rather it is a gracious "work" of God's Spirit.  We should be grateful and thank God for it. Trying to duplicate this grace is folly and gets in the way of intercession.  Much of our best work of prayer will be done without sensible knowledge of this grace.  When it comes, we simply give thanks for it.

Having said this, there are bona fide ascetic practices that, when absent from our lives, pretty well guarantee that we will not do much interceding.  We are powerless when fasting, solitude, silence, and the classic ways of training our bodies to be temples of the Holy Spirit - as we see in our Lord, those He taught, and the early church - are missing in our lives.  Dallas Willard's book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, should be read by all who are serious about true ascetics as applied to prayer and the Christian walk.

Besides the matter of false ascetics with its misbegotten ideas about God or ourselves, two other practices that hinder us in prayer are widespread today.  One involves the practice of substitution.  This occurs when we pray to take someone else's pain, illness, fear, or sorrow into or upon ourselves.  In such a case, we do not intercede to God for them,but try to substitute for them.  Rather than looking to Christ as the One who died to take their pain, sin, or darkness into Himself, we ask to take it upon and into ourselves.  Rather than looking to the Savior, we attempt to be one.  Instead of helping someone carry their burden of guilt, pain, sickness, or whatever to God in prayer, we ourselves fail to trust God.  We attempt to carry the person's need in our own strength.

Substitution occurs, then, when we blur the distinction between being a savior-redeemer --something only Jesus could ever be and do -- and being His disciple, a sacramental channel through whom His life is to flow.  To substitute is to attempt to do the work Christ has already finished, while simultaneously missing our own proper work.  To take upon or into ourselves as mediators the darkness of others is at best based in ignorance, at worst based in pride.  Either way, we fall into a messiah or savior complex and will have to confess pride to get out of it.

One of the great dangers in substitution lies in the fact that spiritual forces we do not understand or fail to discern can be directly involved in sickness of spirit, soul, and body.  In the case of demonic presences, these are quite amenable to  "transferring" themselves from the sick person to the one who asks to "substitute." Such a person unwittingly opens his or her soul and body to darkness, saying to the enemy "Come in" while simultaneously sending messages to his or her own mind and body, "Disintegrate, I give you full permission."

This action, of course, is not rooted in looking to and trusting God -- that is, in true prayer.  The well-publicized movie The Exorcist did not feature an exorcism at all, but a substitution.  A priest, failing to pray to God and exercise the authority of his office, instead took into himself the demonic force afflicting a child.  The movie ends with the priest leaping from a window to his death.  This illustrates most graphically the price to pay in substitutions.  This price is not one connected with legitimate Christian suffering.

An interesting sidelight here:  in PCM conferences, we bring the gospel to bear on the healing of souls.  Since we are psychomatic unities--body and soul--our bodies begin to heal as a natural course and sometimes even instantly.  Near the end of each conference, we are often led to pray for physical healings, especially those connected to the emotional and spiritual healings received by the people.  Invariably, however, when people have the opportunity to renounce their substitutions, we see dramatic and instantaneous physical healings--as well as mental and emotional.  There have been miraculous healings of cancer, emphysema, and others from these renunciations.  Healings, such as those connected to the practice of substitution, do not seem to occur apart from specific teaching and opportunities to pray for them.  Our grief is that there is never enough time in these meetings to get all the teaching and healing prayer exercises in.

If after reading the above, you know or even think that "maybe" there has been a substitution of this kind, now is the moment to name it, repent of it, and renounce it.  You can look straight up to God and pray as follows:

"Lord, I asked to take on [so and so's] pain, disease, or darkness of [name the spiritual darkness, physical disease such as blindness, crippling condition, or mental and emotional depression or darkness of whatever kind].  I name my foolishness and pride before  You right now.  You alone are Savior-Redeemer.  My faith in you was lacking, and I asked to do what You have already done--You carried our sicknesses, our sins, our sorrows.  Forgive me, Lord, even as I renounce this substitution."

The substitution is then renounced, specifically:

"Lord, I have confessed as sin the pride and unbelief that was in this substitution.  I now renounce it before You.  [Renounce as specifically as possible the substitution you made, for instance, 'Lord, I asked to take on so and so's blindness, I renounce that substitution, confessing as sin the pride and unbelief that was in it.']  I look directly to You for [so and so's] health and wholeness, and thank you for removing from me, as far as the East is from the West, this malady I've suffered due to this wrongful practice.'

This prayer ends in praise and thanksgiving to God for His forgiveness, for His release from the substitution, and for all the healing that accrues from it."
Leanne Payne, Listening Prayer,  copyright 1994, pp 58-60,  Hamewith Books, a divsion of Baker Book House Co., Grand Rapids, MI 49516

Though I cannot remember wanting to take on another's physical or mental illness, I have definitely, on occasion, fallen into a "savior complex", which really only, in my experience, impedes or delays the true work of God.  

I have been able to steer myself away from commitments and entanglements motivated by the "be the savior" temptation many times by reminding myself:  There is only one Savior, and I am NOT Him.

Monday, September 6, 2010


holy experience

I'm grateful:

71.  for the discipline and public "accountability" of  of multitude monday

72.  for the "nuggets of joy" that seem to eventually come to the person looking for them

73.  for my husband's faithfulness to love me, day in and day out, over 35 years

74.  for gorgeous sunsets

75.  that happen over and over and over

76.  for living in a place where I get to watch pelicans fish on a regular basis

77.  for children who help waken their napping infant cousin with kisses

78.  and parents who allow and encourage it

79.  for grandchildren bursting in through the front door with hearty greetings and tales of the latest adventure

80.  for David's flexibility in welcoming my mom on our trip to Alaska

81.  and chauffeuring us all over the place

82.  freeing me to drink in the scenery

83.  for the joy of reading books for learning and pleasure

84.  for the musician at "our beach" playing a xylophone last night just before sunset

85.  for Eli's interest and joy as he danced in the water to the jamaican beat

86.  that I could see his mom in his dance

87.  for the fiercely strong waves

88.  so far out, yet still shallow enough for the little ones to make it all the way on foot

89.  and have so much fun trying to body surf and withstand the pummeling

90.  for ground broken and work begun on preparing the land for the "construction shed" and future home for Kyle and Michelle's family

91.  that the children will be able to watch and help throughout the process, building knowledge and good stewardship that comes from helping to build it

92.  for my two daughters-in-law

93.  who are very different in so many ways

94.  but who each contribute so much to who our family is becoming

95.  and also to their friends and communities

96.  for the many varied ways I get to witness our sons loving their wives

97.  and children

98.  for all the young adults we've had live with us for a season...and all the new life and perspective they have brought to David and me:

99.  Kyle and Michelle, Joanna, Sam and Amber, Amy

100.  for abundant health and the ability to work

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Where in the World...? Two

While these posts designed for a game of observation and memory will be geared mostly for my immediate and local family, any others may join in guessing.  I live in Pinellas County, Florida and travel between Largo and Tampa for most of my weeks, with occasional trips farther north to Brooksville and Floral City (mothers).  

Most recent vacation trips have been to Alaska, Minneapolis, and Seattle, with older pics from Chicago and maybe even Boston and Baltimore if I get around to loading older photo cd's.

At times I will post pictures already featured on this or other blogs to which I contribute .  I will try to post a variety of "easy" and "harder" pics, to encourage the kids in their observation and deduction skills.

Have fun, and be as specific as possible when you post your guesses, please.

Friday, September 3, 2010

God Will

I don't remember now what the conflict was.  But I do remember it was a seemingly unscalable, impassable mountain in my relationship with my husband.  I'm guessing that conflict took place somewhere in the 15th-25th year of our marriage.  It wasn't even close to being the first conflict of that level, intensity, and insurmountability.  It certainly wouldn't be the last.  Or the longest.  Or the worst.  But I was undone -- completely.

I saw no way out, around or through.  My husband exited the room -- or the house --and I slid down the wall in a heap on the floor, weeping, flinging my broken heart and intractable husband at the feet of God, crying out for grace.

Quietly, from a still place deep within/beyond me, came words and music, and I began to sing:

"God will make a way where there seems to be no way.  
He works in ways we cannot see---He will make a way for me.   
He will be my guide, Hold me closely to His side.  
With love and strength for each new day 
He will make a way, He will make a way."

I sang the lyrics once, twice, four times, then stood to my feet in that spot with a quieted heart.  I knew that God had seen, heard, and answered.   I would wait with a heart that trusted Him, to see what He would do.
All the rest of that day, and throughout the several days that followed, I sang and hummed that song.  No matter what other activity I was involved in, I could hear the words and melody:

"God will make a way where there seems to be no way.
He works in ways we cannot see -- He will make a way for me.."

God did make a way where there seemed to be no way.  As He had done many times before and would do many times again in my relationship with my husband.

Thank You, Don Moen and Integrity Music for giving me -- and multitudes of other people over the past three? decades -- so many songs that have taught us how to praise God through song, have ushered us into God's presence and embedded His truths in our heart.

So MANY songs have so greatly enriched my walk with God over the years...bringing hope, healing, thanksgiving, praise, intercession and joy -- more stories to tell later.  I am so grateful for the ability to hear and to sing, so grateful for the wonderful gift of music.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Surrender My Demand For Life on My Terms?

I was a little glad when I got back to civilization/internet access, and saw that I had missed Amber's assignment of writing about surrender.  After 45 years of relationship with the God of the universe I had  many experiences which I had characterized as surrender, but the last five years held so much skepticism and unbelief on my part that I doubted my ability to remember and separate just one example from my tangled ball of experience.  "Whew!  I can excuse myself from that assignment", I thought.

But promises I'd made to myself and years of placing my heart's desires before God joined to become a quietly insistent voice that I discipline myself to add another, older perspective to the fresh accounts  already told in and attached to Amber's blog.  I went to my bookshelves to pull Catherine Marshall'sbooks and find where she had written about relinquishment in a way that had imprinted inself into both my daily experience and long term memory.

You young women have likely heard of Catherine Marshall only, if at all, as the author of Christy, a winsome story of a young teacher's first years living and teaching in a southern Appalachian mountain community which was made into a movie decades ago.  Those of you who are enjoying "Redeeming Love" will probably enjoy Christy.  Catherine Marshall has written numerous easy to read non-fiction books, which I heartily recommend to you, detailing her "own search for a meaningful life, a practical faith, and a closer relationship with God."  I have on my shelves: To Live AgainBeyond OurselvesSomething MoreMeeting God at Every TurnThe Helper, and Mr. Jones Meet the Master (this last book was Catherine's first, a written compilation of some of her first husband's sermons, published after his death.)

In Beyond Ourselves, Catherine writes about the Prayer of Relinquishment:

"I got my first glimpse of it in the fall of 1943.  The illness that I have mentioned before... had kept me in bed for many months.  A bevy of specialists seemed unable to help.  Persistent prayer, using all the faith I could muster, had resulted in -- nothing.

One afternoon a pamphlet was put in my hand.  It was the story of a missionary who had been an invalid for eight years.  Constantly she had prayed that God would make her well, so that she might do His work.  Finally, worn out with futile petition, she prayed, 'All right.  I give up.  If you want me to be an invalid for the rest of my days, that's Your business.  Anyway, I've discovered that I want You even more than I want health.  You decide.'  The pamphlet said that within two weeks the woman was out of bed, completely well.

This made no sense to me.  It seemed too pat.  Yet I could not forget the story.....I came to the same point of abject acceptance.  'I'm tired of asking' was the burden of my prayer.  'I'm beaten, finished.  God You decide what you want for me the rest of my life...'  Tears flowed.  I had no faith as I understood faith.  I expected nothing.  The gift of my sick self was made with no trace of graciousness.

The result was as if windows had opened in heaven; as if some dynamo of heavenly power had begun flowing, flowing into me.  From that moment my recovery began.

Through this incident and others...God was trying to teach me something important about prayer.... I got only part of the message.  I saw that the demanding spirit - 'God, I must have thus and so; God this is what I want you to do for me' - is not real prayer and hence receives no answer.  I understood that the reason for this is that God absolutely refuses to violate our free will and ...unless self-will is voluntarily given up, even God cannot move to answer prayer."

Catherine Marshall relates two more accounts of a prayer of relinquishment from the lives of others, then writes:

"Larry's story and Una's have several points in common.  In each case, the mother wanted the same thing desperately -- life and health for her child.  Each mother commanded God to answer her prayer.  While the demanding spirit had the upper hand, God seemed remote, uapproachable

Then, through a combination of the obvious futility of the demanding prayer plus weariness of body and spirit, the mother surrendered to the possibility of what she feared most.  At that instant there came a turning point.  Suddenly and inexplicably fear left and the feeling of lightness ad joy that had nothing to do with outer circumstances.  This marked the turning point.  From that moment the prayer began to be answered.  

...We know that fear blocks prayer.  Fear is a barrier erected between us and God, so that His power cannot get through to us.  So -- how does one get rid of fear?

This is not easy when the life of someone dear hangs in the balance, or when what we want most in all the world seems to be slipping away.  At such times, every emotion, every passion, is tied up in the dread that what we fear most is about to come upon us.  Obviously only strong measures can deal with such a powerful fear.  My experience has been that trying to overcome it by turning one's thoughts to the positive or by repeating affirmations is not potent enough.

...Jesus is saying: 'Admit the possibility of what you fear most.  And lo, as you stop fleeing, as you force yourself to walk up to the fear, as you look it full in the face, never forgetting that God and His power are still the supreme reality, the fear evaporates.'  Drastic? Yes.  But effective.

One point about the Prayer of Relinquishment puzzled me for many years.  There seemed to be a contradiction between the Prayer of Faith and that of relinquishment.  If relinquishment is real, the one praying must be willing to receive or not receive his heart's desire.  But that state of mind scarcely seems to exhibit the faith that knows that one's request will be granted...

Now I believe I have the explanation...Once I thought that faith was believing this or that specific thing in my mind with never a doubt.  Now I know that faith is nothing more or less than actively trusting God...."

Actively trusting God - and being willing to have my understanding of who He is corrected in the process -  is still a curriculum that challenges me greatly even after 45 years.  I have, at various times, surrendered my children, my husband, my life, my marriage, my possessions, my lifestyle, my time and our future to the GOD whom I had found to be GOODNESS and LOVE through and through.  I have practiced on a regular basis the voluntary surrender of my rights modeled by Jesus and described in Philippians 2.  But I have also strongly resisted surrendering MY DEMAND FOR LIFE ON MY TERMS many  times - and the older I am the more I recognize the undercover resistance movement in my actions and choices of the past.