Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Backyard

I intended to post a wrap-up on my stay in Romania....truly I did! I've been back in the States for nearly a month now…..I’m obviously a little behind.  Or a lot behind! First I blamed it on jet lag. After that, I don't know exactly what happened. I crashed. And life won't stop. The next bend in the road is coming up fast! So I've never gone back to finish what I started....and I did start that post, I really did! Maybe I'll get back to it? But for now, I’d like to share something that God put on my heart after I returned from Romania.

One night, as I was lying in bed, I asked God a question. “What happened?”

Meaning, what happened to that passionate thirst for His fellowship, to those rich, deep hours spent with Him, drinking in new insights He was showing me after the Lamplighter Guild this past summer? What happened to my new purpose to begin doing battle in prayer after seeing the movie War Room back in August….the determination to fight back against the enemy’s bid for my effectiveness, my fruitfulness, my potential in God’s kingdom? What happened to those intentions I had when I left for Romania….that I was going to use my free time to learn prayer warfare and to write more consistently?

“Lord…..what happened?”

Would you like to know what He said?

He brought to my mind these lines from a song. It pictures something similar to a quote I’ve heard from C.S Lewis, I believe. He was talking about how weak our desires are compared to what God wants to give us and to do in our lives. Lewis said we are like children making mud pies in the slums, and we just go on doing this in our blissful ignorance, because we can’t even imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday on the seashore. We are far too easily satisfied. These are the words that came to me….

“There you are in the backyard
Covered in mud in the backyard
If you only knew the joy I have for you
But you’re far too pleased in the backyard.”

And I get it. My backyard consists of the things of this earth that dazzle and distract, that split my focus and prevent me from being fully effective in anything to which I set my hand. 

It’s my smartphone, which after my choice to leave it off the grid for my two months overseas has inexplicably entangled me in its time-sucking vortex just as much as I was before! It’s things like Facebook and Youtube that play on my tendency to sit and kill time because I feel too lazy or too tired to do something better. It’s the ads and promotions and sales that are sent to my email and plastered in the store windows, calling me to hurry into the stores and look for bargains for Christmas gifts, or maybe just some new additions to my wardrobe. It's the spirit of laziness that entices me every morning to stay in bed just a little longer. It's spending all my time being busy with my hands because then I feel like I'm accomplishing something. Sometimes it is even worship music, which, although it feeds my soul and lifts my spirits, I often allow to become all this noise that drowns out the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit and never allows me to quiet myself enough to listen.

I’m like a kid making mudpies in the backyard when my Father has planned this extraordinary adventure to the seashore and the mountains. He wants to show me so much more than I can imagine, but for the most part, I am content with my small world and small desires. I like to dream of far-off adventure and the glories of eternity…but to actually leave my puddle and walk away from what feels like security and comfort in the little fenced-in yard? It is difficult to focus your eyes on the horizon when they have been stubbornly fixed on the ground beneath your nose all day long.

So what will I do with this? How can I fight against the enemy’s strategy to bind me to small-mindedness?

I don’t know all the answers. For all the Word I have in my head, my sword arm still feels so weak. But the Word tells me that I must choose by faith, every day, to see what is unseen. To lift my eyes from my mudpies and see what God sees. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”  
Colossians 3:1-4

So what does it mean to set my mind on things above? How do I practice this? Seek what is above, where Jesus is. Seek His will, His kingdom, His glory. Seek the advancement of His kingdom and glory over the earth. 

But what does that look like?

Jesus is going to reign forevermore, and I will reign with Him and share in His glory! That is what He is preparing me for in this earthly life. Right now, on this earth, we are co-workers with Christ….co-creators with Him in the restoration of all things which will be completed when He returns as King! We are a part of His restoration work here. We have been newly created in Christ for particular good works that He has prepared for us to carry out in His name! That is our purpose and our calling on this earth. And of primary importance, our purpose is to know God intimately and to grow continually in our knowledge of Him. As a result of this, our lives here will be effective and fruitful in bringing Him glory and accomplishing His will!
So the question remains: what does this look like in practical, daily life? How do I throw off the things that are not necessary to an effective daily life, the things that slow me down and dim my sight of eternity? How do I maintain a proper perspective towards the responsibilities, opportunities, and tasks that are a necessary part of daily life? How do I determine what to emphasize more….the things I need to practice with increasing passion and perseverance in order to develop the gifts God has placed in me, grow in Christ’s character, and be the most effective me?

I have plenty of grand, searching questions, but I lack answers. Yet the Word says, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” It says that Jesus has become my wisdom from God. His life in me supplies all the wisdom and all the resources I need for life and godliness. So then the question is how can I tap into this source of amazing life and wisdom?  

Ask. I must ask Him. You must ask Him. He said, “Ask, and you will receive.”

Because life is bigger than the backyard.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Life is tough.

Sometimes it is downright chaos.

Sometimes we get lost.

I've been a little lost lately. There are so many things I wanted to write. Many things still left to share from my time in Romania. Pictures to post. I've been back in the States nearly two weeks and where does the time go? People want to hear about my experiences and I don't want to keep it to myself, but sometimes the words won't come.

I came home eager to see my family and make things festively fun for the holidays and enjoy Christmas. Funny thing is,life doesn't stick to my script. I should know that by now. Christmas is all about God with us. But Jesus didn't come to make our lives all warm and cozy and fun,, He didn't come to give us a beautifully constructed holiday celebration, full of tastefully decorated homes, special food, thoughtful gifts, warm fuzzies, happy music, and family harmony. All of these things are great when you have them, and we can give thanks in our enjoyment of them. But they don't make Christmas.

And what about when life gets messy? When fear and faith collide in your soul and it gets ugly? When your eyes begin to open wider to the cosmic war we live in, the war between two kingdoms...and you feel powerless to stand? When hearts are broken and family is complicated and we struggle to understand, to make some connection? When the needs and pressures and work and junk of everyday life keeps piling up and overwhelming you and it's all you can do to keep putting one foot in front of the other?

I'm not writing because I have any answers or some fresh insight to share. I'm writing because I'm full of questions. Because I don't understand. Because I'm just trying to keep my head above water. And trying desperately to cling to the belief that God's plans for me, for all of us, are hope and a good future. Not because life will get easier. Not because we've been promised the answers. Not because we're ever going to feel equal to the task.

Simply because God is here. And He is our hope. He is our future.

We fill ourselves up with so much stuff and think we have it pretty good and it's easy to forget that our only good in life is God. That without Him, we have nothing. We are poor, blind, naked, destitute. Apart from Christ, we are pitiable wretches.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.....

I have done nothing to deserve redemption. Jesus has done everything.

I. Need. Jesus.

The more I travel this life, the less I seem to know. But I know this....I need Him. I don't know it enough. I want to know it more. There is nothing that matters more in this life than to know the one thing John Newton still remembered at the end of his life.....

"I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior."

John Newton has become one of my mentors of late, as I have been reading a wonderful book compiled from his scores of pastoral letters throughout the years of his service to Christ. Newton On The Christian Life by Tony Reinke is a rare, golden gem of a book. This is a bit of a rabbit trail, but if you can get your hands on a copy, I highly recommend the reading. I've read a ton of books, and I don't usually mark them up, but when I had gotten a short way into this one and was compelled to pull out my highlighters and start underlining, I knew this was a special book! John Newton was filled with Godly wisdom, and He clung to the simple power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He wrote letter after letter to friends and those under his spiritual care, encouraging and challenging them in the Christian life. Now his writings are feeding my soul with the rich truths of the Gospel.

I don't know a better way to tie down this wandering post than with another gem of wisdom from the lips of Newton.  I quote:

"This is faith: a renouncing of everything we are apt to call our own, and relying wholly upon the blood, righteousness, and intercession of Jesus."

This is profound. This is what I am truly wrestling with right now. To lay down everything I think I am and everything I wish to be and whatever others may think I am and everything else that gives me some sort of merit in my own mind. To lay down all of my efforts to build a better me. To embrace the reality that I will always be wholly insufficient and bankrupt, and to cast myself fully on the all-sufficiency of my Savior Jesus.

He is ALL my righteousness. ALL my wisdom. ALL my sanctification. ALL that is lacking in me. ALL I can never be, never do for God. The Victory I can never win. The Love I can never give. The Fruit I can never produce. It is the power of Christ living in me that will do the impossible. Christ in me, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27) My only hope of bringing glory to God, now and forever.

So yes, I've been a bit lost. There is so much I can't make sense of. There is the pain of everything that is not what it should be. There is the crush of endless things unsaid, undone, undeveloped, unfinished. But I still have hope. I will let John Newton close for me because he expresses this hope so well....

"I am not what I ought to be; I am not what I want to be; I am not what I hope to be in another world: but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am."  -John Newton

Friday, November 13, 2015

Beyond The Wardrobe: Under The Waterfall

"If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink! Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  John 7:37-38

So....that week back in July when I stepped through the wardrobe....when I entered this unique fellowship called the Lamplighter Guild?

It was like standing under a waterfall.

I was overwhelmingly drenched in the love of Jesus, in the living, transforming power of His words, in the intimacy of His call for me to share in His creative work on earth!  I surrendered my whole being to His fullness and was carried away in the flood of His glory!

I was experiencing the water of Life....the Life of Jesus coursing over me and through me as I had never known before.  I can't describe to you the wonder of the moment when this revelation began to break over my heart and mind.  I felt as if I'd been waiting my entire life for this.  Even though I became a child of God at a tender age, I spent much of my life drinking from polluted, broken cisterns.  How do you explain the way God breaks a dam, the way living water suddenly flows freely through a soul?  I knew that at last I was drinking deeply of the Living Water, deeper than I had ever tasted before.....and it drove out every other thirst.  All those years, I had known with my head that Jesus offers Living Water that is supposed to satisfy my soul.  Since that week at the Guild, I know it is real.  I know it in the depths of my being.

Do you want to know what happened as I was caught up in the exhilaration of the waterfall pouring over me?  The enemy tried to sabotage my joy.  He sent fear to present me with a picture.  I saw myself standing under this immense waterfall with a measly little cup.  There I was, trying desperately to catch what I could of this life-giving water, so I could hold onto it after the rush was over.  You know what it feels like when you have a spiritual mountaintop experience,  It is so wonderful while it lasts....but then you have to go back down into the valley, and soon the glory fades away.  Fear was telling me that when I left the atmosphere and community of the Guild, I would be leaving the waterfall behind.  What precious little I could keep contained in my cup was all I would retain of this water.  I would try to hoard my treasure to make it last....but it could only last so long.

When I asked Jesus to confront this fear, He showed me what I wasn't seeing....I was never meant to hold this water.

Yes, you can hold a bit of water in a cup.  But you can't hold a waterfall.

I never had the waterfall in my hands.  The waterfall had me.  Captured in the torrent of Someone far stronger than myself.  Filled to overflowing with a Life that has no limits.

And this idea that leaving the Guild would mean walking away from the waterfall?  Lies.

No one lives under a waterfall.  But although I stepped out of the torrent, I never have to leave this driving force, this source of vibrant life.

The waterfall is inside me.

I will not always or often experience this rushing, roaring, soaking, euphoric force....rather it becomes the very life flowing through my veins, my entire essence....as I continually drink from the essence of Christ in me!  This is the Living Water that Jesus speaks of in the Bible.  It is Jesus Himself, His very life flowing through us.  He is always filling us, spilling over us, flowing through us, sustaining us in every aspect and every season of our lives.

Jesus invites every one of us to come to Him and drink.  He says,  "Everyone who drinks of this water (anything other than Christ that we seek to satisfy ourselves) will be thirsty again.  But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a SPRING of Living Water WELLING UP to eternal life."  John 4

Scripture describes the water of life as a well, a fountain, a spring, and a river.  As I meditated on these things, the Holy Spirit showed me different ways that this water can work in our lives.

One of the key Scriptures we looked at during the Guild is Romans 5:3-5.
"we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

God was emphasizing to us the necessary work of suffering in the believer's life.  We saw that sometimes He chooses to wound us, out of His sovereign love, in order to bring us into deeper intimacy with Himself, the only One who can complete us.  That deeper intimacy expresses itself in worship.

A well is deep.  Some wells are drilled deep into rock to find a source of pure underground water. Suffering in our lives is like the drill, painfully penetrating deep into the layers of a heart, producing intense pressure, until it seems that something must break.  But God says He is near to the brokenhearted.  And when our hearts break under the pressure of His hand, what comes forth is the life of Jesus Christ!  Only God knows how to tap into the deep waters of a heart that is trusting in Him, and so the suffering produces character....like drilling into rock to reach pure, cold water.  And the Living Water begins to well up stronger in joy....the joy of the Lord is our strength!  This joy is greater than the pain of temporary circumstances and the trials of life.  The greater the pressure of the underground water, the stronger it wells up towards the surface, until it flows out in a spring of fresh hope....hope that will not disappoint us because it is not based on earthly things, but on the eternal promises of God.

So out of the deep places of suffering, the water wells up in joy and flows out in hope.....and now picture a fountain springing high into the air....this life of Jesus within you can no longer be contained, and it springs up in worship....this greater, intimate knowledge of Jesus that comes out of suffering and being formed into His character!  As you see Him better, you will be in awe of His beauty, love, and mercy.  His beauty makes your life attractive to others, just like a sparkling, gushing fountain of refreshing water.

And then come the rivers....as Jesus proclaimed, rivers of living water flow out of your heart.  Not a river....but RIVERS!  So the life of Jesus flows from you in different directions, touching the people close to you, and running farther out to everyone who encounters your life, until the influence of your life in Christ is reaching people you don't even know about in ways you can't imagine!  All of us who have been re-born in Christ carry His life to the world....we carry His Story to all the people, the objects of His unfathomable love!

The last thing I want to bring out is that water is fluid.  It is like art....creative and unique in every life.  It is always in motion, changing shape and direction and intensity.  But this life of Jesus in us will steadily increase in its intensity, through the constant working of the Holy Spirit.  It keeps welling up stronger into the eternal life that is ours in Christ, and as we grow in our intimate knowledge of Him, we grow in the conscious experience of eternal life.  This water keeps moving forward, keeps cleansing us of every impurity, keeps carrying us further in to the grace and power and presence of Jesus.

And the Water of Life never runs dry.  It is endless, relentless, and will never leave you.

The waterfall is inside you.

Amen, Lord Jesus.....let the river flow!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Romania: Our Doings and Celebrations

Now that I've been here several weeks, Romania is beginning to feel a bit more like home.

Life here is not so different from America, but it does take some getting used to, and it has been a great learning experience so far.  We've had some highlights and celebrations in the last couple weeks, and I thought you would enjoy a peak at life in our little nest.

We celebrated Chili Bean's third birthday.  The hats were endured, but the treats were a huge hit!

Chili is the one is the pink hat.  Snoopy is her mom.  She seemed less than thrilled to celebrate her baby's birthday.  

This past Sunday, I was blessed to be part of a special event in one of the girls' lives.  Rachel (name changed for security purposes) was baptized into Christ, along with 29 other believers!  The wonderful evangelical church they attend makes a beautiful celebration out of this step of faith.  They held a special service in a pretty location.  Each emergence from the water was met with joyful song and applause.  The radiant smiles on the faces of those baptized was the most beautiful thing of all!

With Rachel before the service

Me and my girls!

Buried with Him in death....raised with Him to new life!  She has the most beautiful smile!

Beyond this, I am learning a little of the Romanian language, with the help of Ana (name changed), who is a willing and encouraging teacher.  I am helping her to grow in English vocabulary and comprehension as we are reading Bible stories together in English.  We have a lot of fun with this!

I've also enjoyed attending the Friday night youth church with the girls and taking part in a special craft day with the ladies of the church to help raise money for their new building.  It is a vibrant and growing church body, so they are needing to expand their facilities.  

Once a week, I go with a small group of missionaries and volunteers to a mental hospital quite a ways outside the city.  This is a ministry I was introduced to on my first visit to Romania, and now I get to be involved again.  We go in to to bring some sunshine to the residents.  We'll do some kind of simple craft or activity with them, sing some of their favorite songs, and supply plenty of snacks.  It is something they look forward to every week.  The lady who oversees this ministry has been going in for many years and by God's grace has been able to help facilitate significant improvements to the hospital.

As with all of life, some days here are pleasant and meaningful, while other days I feel down, listless, and weary.  One day I can feel a great sense of purpose in being here, and the next day it feels pointless.  And in the midst of it all, God's grace remains sufficient!  He continues to teach me to fix my eyes on Him for the strength to walk on the waves rather than tangling myself in the tide of my emotions and human understanding.  His thoughts are infinitely higher than mine, and His ways are astonishingly greater than I can fathom!  The prayer of my heart is to press deeper into Him each day He allows me to be here and wherever He leads me after that.  If you pray for me, ask Jesus to give me the grace to grow in surrender to the flow of His life, and that all who encounter me will encounter Him.  Let all the glory and honor and praise go to Him!

May your souls grow and prosper in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Swimming Upstream

Procrastination has been making itself quite comfortable in my life lately.

No matter how many noble intentions I hold, they will never translate to one word written on this page.

So this desperately needed reminder from God yesterday?
Your actions will always follow your beliefs.  If you accept defeat, than that is what you will get.

That is a favorite quote from one of my all-time favorite movies, which I have previously quoted here....Facing The Giants.

When I opened my journal back several months and there it was on the page....Bam!  Gotcha!

I thought I'd have all kinds of time to write while I am in Romania.  But guess how that is working for me?  The more freedom I have in my schedule, the more I dance with procrastination and distraction.  A fog of confusion and mental lethargy seems to hang over my mind.  And I begin to crack the door open to listen to the whispers of defeat.

But God.....

My God, in His unstoppable love and extravagant mercy, is not holding the past against me.  Not even my failures of yesterday.  Instead of guilting me, He is cheering me on!  He's saying, Forget yesterday.  Forget what is behind.  Leave it under the blood of my Son.  Move forward today.  Press on to what is ahead!  Never give up to Satan, for he is a defeated enemy!  Never, never, never, never give up!  Don't you make an agreement with defeat.

Because I am greater.  I am greater than your fears of failure, greater than your mental fog, greater than your weariness, greater than your distraction, greater than the perfectionist illusion that paralyzes you....I Am in you, and I Am greater than the enemy of your soul who is doing everything he can to render you unfruitful and ineffective in your knowledge of me and to prevent you from bringing me glory with your life!

He speaks to me in language I understand.  "Kari, don't you put down that pen having done any less than your best.  Don't fear those giants.  Just write for Me.  Give Me your absolute best and leave the results up to Me.  You'll never know how far I can take you until you step out on the water and keep on putting one foot in front of the other, and never take your eyes off Me!"

So this is what I want to do.  God gave me some revelations of His Word during and after my week at the Lamplighter Guild that were amazing to me at the time.  Now I need to recover some of that amazement, and I'd like to invite you to go back with me as I share some of the treasures He gave to my heart.  I hope to make this a series of several posts in the next few weeks.  And you may also see some updates on my experiences here in Eastern Europe sprinkled in for a change of pace!

For our mutual encouragement, I will leave you with the word God gave me as I was embarking on my adventure to Romania, and what I believe He is still speaking into me as I wrestle with the daily conflict, whether it be over my responsibilities here, or my stewardship of the time and resources He gives me, or how to develop the gifts He has created in me, or how to fight my battles in prayer, etc.

"Fear not, for I am with you.  Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:10

Lord Jesus, train our eyes on Your face today.  Take us deeper into Your fullness.  We are Yours.

Lord.....help us.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Romania: Settling In

Hello from the other side of the pond, my friends!  Unless you happen to be reading this blog from the same side....which would be totally cool.

So here I am in Romania....it's already been two weeks!  Thanks to Father for a smooth journey and an enjoyable week traveling around the country.

After resting up a bit from jet lag, I spent the first few days here poring over destinations, travel itinerary, and accommodations with my new friend, Edith.  We set off on a Saturday morning to catch the train that would take us to explore various parts of the Romanian landscape.

Our first stop: Alba Uilia, where we explored an old citadel.  Romania has many such fortress cities, remnants from the old days when this was not one united country and they needed protection from invaders.

 Inside the citadel....the gate.

Orthodox church in the citadel.

We got plenty of exercise and enjoyed a night's stay at a four star hotel....it was actually quite affordable here!

Then we were off to spend a few days in the Transylvanian Alps region in central Romania.  We stayed in the historic town center in Brasov, an old fortress town built against a mountain and quite a popular tourist destination.  Taking advantage of the free walking tour was a great way to learn about the history of the town, see the main historical sites, and learn about the legends and truth of the mysterious Transylvania and its famed villain/hero, Count Dracula.  

Both Edith and I being lovers of natural beauty over historic, we made sure to take in some of the surrounding mountain scenery.  We did visit Bran Castle, the place made famous by Bram Stoker's Dracula, although the real person upon whom the character is based may or may not have actually ever lived at the castle.  

Approaching the castle....an imposing fortress built on a rock.

Inside Bran Castle.

But the best day of all was when we visited Poiana Brasov, a nearby ski resort, and took the cable car to the top of the mountain.  The views were breathtaking!  You'll be seeing a lot of mountaintop pictures on Facebook...being on top of the world always gets me carried away!

The last few days of our trip were spent on the Black Sea coast, walking on the beach and relaxing in our apartment.  We were on a summer vacation strip which was practically abandoned, except for the busy traffic flow....we basically had the beach to ourselves!  There was no swimming, but I may have gotten slightly wet.....

 Captain of me own ship....but I don't think she's goin very far!

Yeah, you have to at least get your toes wet.

It was neat to be able to cross an entire country in a week (without traveling every single day!) and get a varied glimpse of the history and scenery Romania has to offer.  There was much more we could have seen, but I think we got a good sampling.

Edith and I returned from our wanderings on Sunday morning via the overnight train....we crossed from the western border to the eastern in one night!  The last few days have been filled with various things.  I was able to get more settled in at the apartment where I'm living with three girls, and I've had time with the girls' houseparents, Scott and Carolyn, getting up to speed on what I need to know and the responsibilities I will be covering.

Scott and Carolyn left for the States early this morning.  So it's just the four of us now!  I wish I could feel like I have it all together....but I don't.  Maybe I'm not supposed to.  We cling so stubbornly to our own understanding and capabilities, do we not?  I hate feeling helpless, inadequate, being at a loss for what to do or say next or how to plan.  But all the time, God is gently drawing me to look to Him for every need, to trust Him fully, to let go of what control I think I have and depend on Him for everything.  I have a feeling He's getting ready to teach me a lot of this during the next six weeks.  To be honest, this isn't such a difficult place to be in or a huge mountain to climb....it simply looks huge when I look to myself.  And I think God uses so many of the "little", everyday kinds of challenges to teach us to move our trust from ourselves to Him.  Sometimes He uses a truly insurmountable obstacle....but more often than not, He is simply teaching us the difference between our perspective and His in the small stuff.  And in truth, as Jesus said, without Him we can do nothing....so even those little things we think we ought to be able to handle?  We can't even trust ourselves there!  

I will confess to feeling scared in my current position and a bit cut loose in a strange sea....But it is my Heavenly Father who brought me here and I trust His grace to see us through.  Thank you for every prayer on our behalf, as we start to figure out a routine for the next six weeks, and as I seek the Lord to lead me by the free inspiration of His Spirit in doing life here with these beautiful young women.

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirits today.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Romania: The Return

The days fly by and I promised to write about my upcoming adventure which is now almost upon me!  So for those of you who keep up with my sporadic writings and have not been in the circles of the knowledge of my latest doings....

Here's the short story....on Monday I am hopping on a jet plane and taking off across the pond to spend two months in Romania!

If you wish to stay for the long story, you are most welcome!  It follows hereafter.

You may have noticed I've been talking a lot about the Lamplighter Guild.  I will be talking about it again, you may be sure!  This trip, in a way, is connected to the Guild, because God opened the door to Romania that very week in the mountains of New York!

Two years ago, I visited Romania as an intern with Rock of Hope Ministries.  Some of the memoirs of that trip can be found on this blog.  The missionaries I stayed with have a ministry to young women in one of the cities.  They take in young women from late teens to early thirties who have grown up as orphans and never received the training and skills for healthy independence.  The girls live in an apartment, with their "houseparents" right across the hall.  So they live in an atmosphere of semi-independence while gaining the security, counsel, and help of parents which they still desperately need to gain stability in life.  The missionaries help them get jobs or go back to school, learn to handle finances wisely and deal with the ins and outs of life as an adult.  They are also giving these girls the experience of family and a place as daughters in their hearts.  Above all, they point them to Jesus.

When I was in Romania the first time, I stayed in the apartment with the girls and got to be part of their daily life, to learn much about the culture and spiritual climate of Romania, and to get involved in some other ministries around the region.  I did not feel specifically drawn or called to long-term ministry in the country, but I have stayed in touch with the missionary couple.

So, while I was at the Lamplighter Guild, I saw that I had received an email from these friends in Romania.  I ignored most email and other communication that week, in order to focus solely on the projects and everything God was pouring into me during the experience.  So it wasn't until a few days after I returned from New York that I opened and read the email.  I thought my friends were just wanting to catch up with me a bit, but I never expected what they put before me.

The missionaries told me they were planning a six week trip to the States in the fall, and they had been praying about someone to come and stay with the girls currently in their program, while they are gone.  They had been following some of my doings on social media, and God put me on their heart as someone who would be a good fit for this need.  They were asking me to consider coming to stay for two months, as a sort of housemother for the girls.  I was absolutely blown away by this proposal!  It seemed like a huge deal at the beginning.  They would trust me with this kind of responsibility in a foreign country where I only spent a few weeks?  I was staggered by the hand of God, as I was just coming off the Guild week, filled to the brim with new things God was doing in my heart, in a place of fresh surrender to Him, and ready to say yes to whatever He might put before me.  I believed from the first that this was a total God thing, and although I took my time to pray and think and give my final answer, I knew right away that there was nothing legitimate keeping me from saying yes to this.

God was working on my faith during the time I was considering this opportunity.  In a short time after being asked to consider Romania, I was presented with a possibility of getting involved in Lamplighter ministries and developing my creative gifts in a venue that could open all kinds of doors!  The privilege of serving with a ministry that has so profoundly impacted my life and follows a vision that I now passionately believe in would be a dream come true!  While I sensed that God was also in this, I wondered if I would be able to take both paths.  I was hesitant to make the decision about Romania until I knew for sure what this other opportunity would entail and how the timing would work out.  As I was praying one morning about this dilemma, I sensed God telling me to move ahead in faith and give a sure yes.  If I believed He was inviting me into this opportunity to work with Him in Romania, and I knew the only thing holding me back was a need to control the direction of my own future, I needed to surrender other possibilities and hopes to Him and follow the light He was giving me at that time.  So I told God I would go to Romania.  And I gave my friends the final answer.  The very next day I finally got to touch base with someone about the Lamplighter opportunity, and it turned out I wouldn't be able to do what they had in mind because I was going to Romania.  However, that doesn't mean that door is absolutely closed.  God gave me peace that I made the right decision.  I think He has some preparation He wants to do in me while I'm in Romania, some things to teach me that I will need in the next season, whether I get to follow a new dream or something God hasn't even put on my radar yet.

So there you have the gist of it.  I leave on Monday.  The last month has been crazy and I have been fighting a lot of stress and anxiety.  I don't handle it all properly.  But I'm learning.  Jesus is using the pressure to shape me and teach me how to get into the battle and fight in His strength.  What I want above all else is to bring Him glory.  He knows our hearts and He honors those who are set on Him.

So what will I do in Romania?  My main purpose is to be a steady presence for three Romanian young women in their apartment.  I don't need to do a lot for them as much as be there as a friend and mentor, a stabilizing influence, and just do daily life with them.  Beyond that, I can participate in other ministries around the city and surrounding area.  I'll be connected with a network of other missionaries and ministry partners, so I'm not going to be entirely on my own.  And I was invited to tour Romania with another missionary for a week before my friends leave for the States!  Can you imagine how much fun I'll have with that?  More travel, new experiences, beautiful country....I'm totally up for this!

I'll work on keeping you updated along the way.  You'll see me here and on Facebook.  No doubt there will be pictures!  If you want to ask questions or chat, feel free to leave comments here or on my Facebook, or message me!  I love the ability we have to stay connected around the world!

I don't know who is reading this blog.  So let me just say, to those of you who have been or will be praying for me on this adventure, to those who have supported me financially, to those who have encouraged me in the Lord, and to those who actually read what I write here......THANK YOU!  Each of you is a gift to me and a unique part of the story God is writing.  And do you know what's even more amazing?  Not only do each one of us get to be a character in God's story, but we get to intertwine with and influence each other's parts in the Story!

So here's to all of you, my friends, my brothers and sisters in the Spirit....YOU ARE AMAZING! AND YOU ARE SO LOVED BY OUR FATHER!

Live the adventure!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Poetic Inspiration On The Back Roads

So obviously my hopefulness towards posting a prompt follow-up to my last blog never translated into action. I've been diverted from my track. Again. So I thought I would share this little slice of inspiration that came to me while meandering down the gravel tracks of my old stomping grounds.

Can I just say, it's been a great summer? Different, in a good way. The time with my grandparents has been precious. We've been through quite a season together. I have truly enjoyed the flexibility in my daily schedule, been spoiled with the space while living in my grandpa's house, and loved the opportunity to explore some of the beautiful area in the surrounding mountainous regions! I am grateful that we've been able to get my grandparents settled in a new situation now where they are receiving the care and attention they need. But honestly, I'm a little sad to see the season pass. I've lived the life of a nomad for several years now, and there's been a lot of adventure and fun and joy in the journey, but it's always a discomfiting and forlorn sort of feeling to pull up roots again and move into the unknowns of the next season. We humans work so hard to establish our little "normal" wherever we are, and we are such creatures of comfort. In fact, I'm still trying to figure out my new normal since the Lamplighter Guild and other new things God has been bringing into my life the past couple of months....and now it's all getting shaken up again!

The last month has been crazy. Moving my grandparents from a cottage to a small assisted living apartment, a hastily put-together family reunion/moving party, starting some new lifestyle habits, trying to prepare for two months with a ministry in Romania, and getting in a short visit home before I leave....I've been feeling the heat.  

The day I left my grandpa's house to come home, I was struggling to keep from getting sucked into a major funk. It didn't help that the gorgeous, warm, sunny days of late summer which I'd been milking for every last drop abruptly turned into a chilly, grey, rainy morning. It fit my emotions perfectly.

But in the mercy of my God, that day ended like this.


And the next afternoon, as I was enjoying a refreshing bike ramble down the back roads, I had a moment of inspiration. This is loosely composed and not too deeply thought out, but here you go.


Pulling up roots again on a cloud smothered morning
Sky dripping cold tears as I drive
My world grey and drizzly as if in deep mourning
Fall is too soon to arrive

But look! in the West a red sun descending
Promising joy in the journey ahead
Fear not the future at the new season’s dawning
This change is not something to dread

So climb higher, dive deeper, there’s a prize to be won
Take courage, O Traveler, keep faith
Follow the road that goes ever on
Seek first the light of the Face

For as sure as the sun rises and sets
The rain falls, and Time marches on
A glorious dawn where no shadow falls
Awaits those who follow the Son!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Lamplighter Moments Part 2: Through The Wardrobe

Do you know the story of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe?

It begins with four rather ordinary children, exiled from London during the war and sent to live in this huge house with an ancient professor for the summer.  Lucy, the youngest, discovers a beautiful old wardrobe in an otherwise empty room during a game of hide and seek….and she is inexplicably drawn inside.  Lucy discovers she has stepped into a whole other world….a world called Narnia.

In the course of time, all four children are drawn into Narnia and embark on the adventure of a lifetime….they find themselves in the midst of an epic struggle in a land that has long been held under an evil spell, one in which they themselves must play a key role.  Through intrigue, danger, hope, betrayal, and redemption the children journey….and in the process they are changed.  These four ordinary children become something for which they were destined but could never have imagined….kings and queens of Narnia! 

At the end of the tale, the children, now fully grown kings and queens, wise and experienced in their rule, come upon a place of long ago that seems vaguely familiar.  They stumble back into the wardrobe from whence they came and tumble out the doors, children again….only to find that almost no time has passed in our world while decades passed in Narnia!  Yet they are not the same children who first stepped through the wardrobe.  Life is never quite the same for them after that, and there are more adventures to come.  And this one statement sums it up:  “Once a king or queen in Narnia….always a king or queen in Narnia.” 

This is my story of stepping through the wardrobe. 

My Narnia is a heavenly place in the Catskill mountains of New York….the Mohonk Mountain House.  This is where I attended the Lamplighter Guild, a week that has changed my life.  As I attempt to wrestle words to the screen to express what happened to me during that week, please remember that words can only say so much.  There are some things words cannot express.  And there is far too much in my heart to ever tell the full of it!  But I seek to proclaim the glory of the Lord with my life and my words, to the best of my ability, so that others may be drawn to Him!

This is a teaser.  I know my readers have busy lives.  Even someone like me, who appreciates many of the engaging, insightful writers out there in Blog Land, only has so much time to spend reading articles and things online, and I know that a long post looks laborious to read and makes a person wants to pass it by.  So for now I will leave you with this introduction, and maybe you’ll want to come back later and read the next installment, which I will hopefully have written in the next few days! 

I hope you’ll come back soon.  To borrow unashamedly from the best….namely Lamplighter Theatre….”you’re always welcome here!”

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lamplighter Moments: Part One

I know, my friends.  I promised to tell you about the Lamplighter Guild weeks ago.  

Life does this thing, you know, where it’s running ahead and leaving me five steps behind, trying desperately to catch up….but that never happens to you, I’m sure!

Honestly I don’t think I’ve fully recovered from the Guild yet, even a month later….the first week or so I spent processing and jealously taking every moment I could to be alone with God, basking in the wonder of what He has done in me.  

Then there were the doors He started opening up to new opportunities, filling me with excitement and keeping my mind busy!  Throw in a bonus meet-up with new friends from the Guild and almost dying in the process (refer to my previous post), my brother’s wedding, a nasty head cold, a surprise overseas trip in the fall to plan for, and my grandparents due to move into a new living arrangement in a couple weeks….not to mention my allergies going berserk….and I can’t seem to even keep up with the basic business in everyday life, much less sit down and write something coherent! 

But I am making myself do this.  As much for my own sake as anything.  And you know what?  I hope I never, ever recover from the Guild.  

Because it was the most amazing experience of my life.
There are a lot of things I definitely want to improve on, like my time management skills and self-discipline, in order to have more margin in life for the most important things.  Everything is feeling helter-skelter these days.  But I never wish to recover from the incredible work God did in my heart during that week.  I never want to get over this new love for Jesus and His Word.  I never want to stop pursuing the dreams He plants in my heart to use the particular gifts He’s given me as His co-creator and glory-proclaimer in this world!  I want to be ever-increasing in desire to be as close to Jesus as I possibly can! 

Ah, how do I even begin to sum up the Lamplighter Guild?

Beautiful, humble servants of God giving of their time, resources, energy, and gifts to pour into the next generation….to make ready a people prepared for HIS GLORY!

Breathtaking scenery and a magical location filled with new delights everywhere we turned!

A fellowship of new friends with hearts after God and connections that may serve us spiritually and professionally for the rest of our lives!

Passion for the Word and the glory of God like I have never before seen….a passion that is contagious!

Marvelous speakers, insightful times of reflection in the Scriptures both individually and in a group, being mentored in the creative arts by people who are masters of their craft and use it to proclaim Christ to the world!

The food….wow….the best I’ve ever tasted!

Being lavishly served in such a way that I felt like a rich person for a week!

Late nights, early mornings, endless brainstorming, crunching deadlines, tight schedules, spiritual adrenaline keeping me going.

Working together in a team of very different and unique people to produce something that seemed nearly impossible when we started out!

Early morning hikes, sunrise from a mountaintop, stargazing in the gardens, walking in the woods with God, rock scrambling and water fun!

Worship full of awe!

Recording some of my most precious wow moments with God on my phone because my thoughts were tumbling too fast to write down the revelations breaking over me!

Being taught, mentored, and given hands-on experience in writing, but also having the chance to test the waters with drama and discover that my dramatic spark is stronger than I realized!

Stepping into release, freedom, surrender, and joy in abundance!

Being fully convinced that God is my portion, my delight, and my satisfaction in life….that it really is all about HIS GLORY….and that all I want to do for the rest of my life is to know and proclaim HIS GLORY!

Wow.  After all that I need to take a breather.

I think this is enough to give you a snapshot of my Guild experience.  But there is so much more I want to share!  And I haven't even told you about my latest upcoming adventure! 

So stay tuned...I can't promise it will come soon, but there is more to come!

"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!"  Psalm 126:3

Thursday, July 30, 2015

In His Hands

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty……Because he holds fast to Me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows My Name.  When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.”  Psalm 91:1, 14-16

Two weeks ago, I was in the mountains of New York, being absolutely blown away by God’s transforming grace and the glory He revealed to me during the Lamplighter Guild! 

I am still dizzy with the afterglow.

There is so much to share, floods of words I could write….still I wish to choose wisely what I say, that it might be more than mere words. 

But today, before I attempt to begin unpacking the Guild, I simply want to testify to the stunning mercy of God’s protective hand on my life. 

I had made plans to meet up with some new friends from the Guild….two siblings who came all the way from Australia and are taking several more weeks to tour the country before returning home.  They were doing some sightseeing in the D.C. area last week, and since I am currently not far from there, we decided to get together for a day in the Capitol.  After all, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of the chance to spend another day with a couple of Aussies?  They are fun kids, not to mention that their accent is the coolest ever!

So Monday morning, I set out for the hour drive to the Metro station where we planned to meet and continue into the city.  It was gorgeous….the sun came out, the music was up loud, a day of fun ahead….smooth sailing.  

Except suddenly it wasn’t.  Crazy how everything can change in an instant.  One split second could change your life forever.  It almost did mine. 

I’m rolling along in one of those lower speed zones where everyone is doing about 20 over the limit.  What do you do but go with the flow?  It’s supposedly safer that way.  There’s three, maybe four lanes….we’re getting closer to D.C. and traffic is fairly heavy.  I’m in the second to the far left lane when my GPS announces I have two miles until my exit.  So I coolly flip my signal and make for a pass to the right.  And narrowly miss side swiping a car coming up on my right hand side.  My mirrors are set a special way that is supposed to eradicate your blind spot.  But in a busy traffic flow at that speed, when your mind is focused on where you need to be and you’re even the least bit careless, it’s still easy to miss what coming up on your flank. 

A split second error.  Instant reaction.  Panic causes over-reaction.

I over-corrected my steering…..and lost control of the car.  Suddenly I’m fish-tailing violently between three lanes!  In that moment of terror, I can’t think how to pull out.  I’m just reacting.  Desperately trying to regain control before someone hits me.  Cars swerving all around me.  Hitting the brakes, trying to balance the wheels….and my car does a 180!  I’m shuddering as I write this, almost reliving the moment.  In that instant of all control completely lost, I was sure someone was going to smash into me at any moment, probably head-on!  Instinctively I cried out, “Lord Jesus!  Oh Lord Jesus, help me!” 

It could have been all over for me at that second.  Or my life could have been seriously altered.  Funny how our brains operate under intense stress….in the back of my mind I was actually more worried about my car and what I would do if it was totaled….and about missing the day with my friends! 

No, my life did not flash before my eyes.  But I was expecting impact at any second.  Yet my God heard my desperate cry before it even left my lips, and He literally  delivered me from harm!  He must have commanded a circle of angels all around my car.  I am sliding to a stop in the left lane, facing INTO traffic….but not only have I not hit anyone in my wild rampage, no one has hit me….and the oncoming traffic manages to avoid me! 

Now almost at a complete stop, I veered quickly onto the shoulder.  There I sat, shaken but completely unscathed.  Hardly daring to believe that just happened!  If it hadn’t been so terrifying, it might have passed for some hard-core stunt driving in a movie scene!  Just an off-note….I will not be signing up for police driving academy anytime soon.  I think I’ll stick to writing the action scenes. Yeah.

After several moments of just breathing and gathering myself, I had to figure out how I was going to get turned around and back into traffic in one smooth move!  And whether there were any breaks in the traffic long enough to attempt this.  So I asked God to give me an opening.  And when I saw the window of opportunity, I took it!  Thankfully I didn’t have much further to go.  I drove the rest of the way to the Metro station still trembling and thanking Jesus over and over.  And then I went off and had a lovely day traipsing around D.C. with my friends!  By the end of the day it felt like a distant memory….but you better believe I was nervous and more than a little paranoid on the drive home!

I tell this story so you can rejoice with me over the power and mercy of God.  Rejoice and give Him the glory, because ultimately, all our lives are in His hands every moment, stupid split-second mistakes notwithstanding.  

It is quite obvious to me that God is not finished with me here.  I should not have driven away from that incident unharmed.  He has prepared works for me to accomplish….some of which I may only be beginning to glimpse since the Lamplighter Guild and see that I am finally ready to walk in them.  In His Sovereign wisdom, God preserved my life so that I can continue to step into what He created me to be and do, in order that He will receive glory!  He can move heaven and earth to save those who call upon His name.  He always, always hears His children when we cry out for deliverance.  His ways are far above ours and so His answer will not always make sense to our finite minds.  He does not always rescue as we hope or pray.  The why of this is not for us to determine.  Neither is it for us to focus on what almost happened and move into the future with dread of what could happen.  We can rest in our God in this moment, thanking Him for His gifts lavished on us and most of all for His presence with us, holding us in the eternal now!  If your spirit is alive in Him, you are safe from all real harm.  There are things much more real than our physical world.  Nothing can truly hurt us in God’s hands…..nothing.  

And in the end, every little thing is going to be okay.  Because our God, our Creator, our Redeemer…..because He holds it all together.  And He holds us safe in Him.  


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Impossible Possibilities

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.  You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of The Rings

“Adventure is out there!”  ‘Up’ by Pixar

This little hobbit is going on an adventure.  Sunday morning, bright and early, I will set out for the mountains of New York to take on a week of wonder, excitement, and adventure….and a hearty dose of God-breathed inspiration….at the 2015 Lamplighter Guild!  For those of you not familiar with this animal, Lamplighter Ministries publishes rare classic books for children, stories with strong, eternal messages.  Lamplighter Theatre produces audio dramas of these stories.  The Lamplighter Guild is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience designed to challenge, inspire, and empower young adults to use their God-given gifts in the creative arts to impact culture for His glory!  It is an intensive, hands-on  week of training in various creative arts fields, particularly the dramatic arts.  But from the testimonials and everything I have read about the heart behind the Guild, it is more than that.  It is first and foremost a week of learning to know our Creator better, so that we can more excellently reflect Him in our own creativity.  Many people have testified that this was a life-changing experience for them, both in their relationship with the Lord and in their pursuit of excellence in the arts for His glory.  I am privileged to be able to attend the Guild, and excited to see what God is going to do!

God gave me the vision to attend the Guild last summer, as I was talking with a few close friends and mentors about my dreams, the gifts God has put within me, and my struggle to know what I can do to develop these gifts and pursue His dreams for my life.  While compiling a list of ideas for pursuing the primary passion on my heart, namely writing, God brought the Lamplighter Guild to mind.  I had heard it advertised many times on the radio, while listening to some of the Lamplighter Theatre productions, and it sounded like an awesome opportunity!  But I never seriously considered going until that point last summer.  When I went to the Lamplighter Guild website and began reading about the event, I was captured!  My spirit resonated with the vision of the Guild creators and the testimonies of past students.  I immediately wanted to go, but the cost seemed prohibitive.  Still, God kept the dream alive in my heart over the next few months, and when I returned home from His Ranch in the fall, and He provided full-time work at a former job, I saw a ray of hope that I might be able to afford to attend the Guild after all! 

When I discovered that there was an attractive discount for registering and paying the full tuition amount by the end of the year, I wanted to be able to do that, but there was no way I would have enough money that quickly.  So as I prayed about these things and discussed it with my parents, I decided to take the step of reaching out to friends for financial support.  And Father blessed me with an outpouring of gifts that made it possible for me to pay the full amount by the discount deadline!  I am so grateful to God for making the way before me, and to all those friends who allowed Him to use their generosity to provide for me!  If any of you are reading this blog, you know who you are….Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!

The initial provision of funds and the excitement of actually getting registered was a climax for me.  The months between now and then have felt rather anticlimactic.  These last couple of months in particular, as I have made the changes to move and help my grandparents, and as I have kept busy attending to their needs and settling in to a new routine, the Guild has only been a hazy thought in the back of my mind.  I have felt that I really should be doing something special to prepare myself for this big week, but I have been occupied with other things and have not given it much thought.  So now, the time has come.  And I don’t feel ready.  But what does “ready” feel like, anyhow? 

Just several days ago, I received an email from the Lamplighter staff with final reminders and information for the Guild, and attached was a hefty student handbook.  Scrolling down through the pages of the file, I began to feel overwhelmed.  Intense schedule.  Early mornings.  Pages of Scriptures and devotionals that will be used as a foundation of the spiritual teaching during the week, which I immediately began to think I needed to read and study through beforehand in order to be adequately prepared in my spirit for what God might want to speak to me.  Hours of classes and labs in the dramatic arts, where we will actually be creating and preparing dramatic presentations to give before an audience at the end of the week….a prospect that both excites and terrifies me!  

I began to feel like a fish out of water…..like I’m getting in over my head….letting fears and doubts creep in.  Fear that I’m going in half-cocked….that there I will be with very little actual experience in my field of interest and few accomplishments to show what I’ve been doing with my gifts….that all the other students will be younger, more energetic, more passionate about the arts, more creative and accomplished in what they are doing.  Fear that if I don’t put enough into preparing myself mentally and spiritually, I won’t be able to make the most of what I am given during this week.  Fear that I’ll be faced with things I don’t think I can do, and that when I am asked to stretch beyond my comfort level, I will hold back and miss what God would do in me.  Fear that after all the money other people have invested in me, and the prayers and support I have received, and the dreaming that I believed was from God….that in the end I will come away with no lasting fruit to show from this opportunity….no further direction in how God wants me to use these gifts….no fresh inspiration and vision to dream and do bigger….in a word, that I will have nothing to show. 

So there I was, just a few days away from this grand adventure, feeling worn and overwhelmed by fears and unbelief. 

But thanks be to God, who showed up with grace to help in my time of need!

Who do you think would like nothing better than to get me to believe I am defeated before I even walk onto the field? 

Who else?  Satan, that old snake.  Well, guess what, Master of Deceit….I am not biting this time.  I refuse to agree with you!  I belong to God, and what He does with this week is His business!

Even as I was pouring out my fears and frustrations to someone in an email, God began to speak to me.  He began to pour His peace into my spirit.  He reminded me of some truths from two God-inspired films that I just watched recently (for the zillionth time).  

This quote from the movie Pendragon: Sword of His Father…..”What God calls us to do, He gives us the strength to accomplish, the grace to live….or die….for His glory.”

I believe that God has called me to use the gifts He put within me for His glory.  Therefore, He has called me to write.  This is a passion that burns within me, no matter how much I neglect it or push it to the back burner of life.  I know, according to the Word of God, that He does not want me to neglect the gift that is in me.  He wants me to stir it up and fan it into flame!  He has NOT given me a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind!  (2 Tim. 1:6-7)  When I began asking Him what action steps I could take to develop and pursue this gift, He laid the Lamplighter Guild on my heart.  So I choose to believe God has called me to attend the Guild!  And whatever results come of it will not be my power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within me!  “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord.”  Zech. 4:6

Whether I perceive the week as life-changing, or whether I leave with more questions than I came with, God will provide grace.  What He asks of me is to receive that grace.  In a manner of speaking, to “take the adventure that comes to me”!

The other inspiring message that God reminded me of is from the movie Facing The Giants.  Every time I watch this movie, I am challenged afresh and take away something new.  Incidentally, I am going to have the blessing of hearing one of the producers of the film, Stephen Kendrick, speak at the Guild, and maybe I’ll even get to meet him! 

In this movie, a story is told of two farmers who desperately needed rain, and both of them prayed for rain, but only one went out to prepare his fields to receive it.  Coach Taylor, desperately needing a breakthrough for his life and his football team, is exhorted, “God will send the rain when He’s ready.  But you need to prepare your field to receive it.”  God shows him how to do this, and sure enough, the rain comes, and God does above and beyond what anyone could have dreamed!  I think God is telling me that going to this week at the Lamplighter Guild is a way for me to prepare my “field” for rain.  He will bring the increase….all He asks of me is to be open to His working and come with a spirit that says “Yes!” to Him, to whatever He puts before me! 

My favorite scene in Facing the Giants is at the end of the championship football game, when the little Christian school team has come further than anyone had imagined they could, they are playing against the Giants, a team three times their size, and it all comes down to the last two seconds on the clock….Coach Taylor decides to try for a 50 yard field goal.  And the player he taps for this seemingly impossible feat is David, a 130 pound backup kicker who is just in his first year of football.  When the other coaches ask Taylor what in the world he is doing, he says….”I’m preparing for rain.”  As David prepares for the kick, he is already in defeat, believing that there is no way he can make it.  During one last time-out, Coach Taylor asks him, “Do you believe God can help you make this kick?”  David has to admit that God can, if He wants to.  The Coach goes on to tell him that no matter what happens, whether they win the game or not, they are going to praise God, but that David has to give his absolute best to God and let Him take care of the results.  I love the moment when he says, “Don’t you walk off this field having done anything less than your best!”  If you’ve seen the movie, you know that David changes his thinking, choosing to believe that God can do anything, and he goes for broke with that kick…..and he makes it!  The team with the longest losing streak become state champions, and God gets all the glory!  A little later on, in the locker room, as the boys are celebrating, Coach Taylor asks David to step forward, and this is what he says to him…..”Don’t you ever let anyone tell you that you’re second rate, under par, or inferior.  I just watched God do a miracle through you.  I saw a whole field of Giants, 85 to be exact, fall in defeat!  Now you tell me, what’s impossible with God?”  And the answer?  “Nothing, Coach.”

God is speaking to me through these scenes, telling me that it’s not about who I am or what I think I can or can’t do.  He wants me to get my eyes off myself, quit with the little pity party, and believe that He is who He says He is, and that in truth, NOTHING is impossible for Him to do in my life!  He’s asking me to give Him everything I’ve got this week, and to leave the results up to Him.  And He has promised that His grace will be sufficient for me….that where I am weak, He is stronger still and delights in showing off His glory through little lives that are yielded to Him!

One final encouragement that God gave me is from the book of Revelation, chapter 3, in the letter to the church at Philadelphia.  Jesus tells this church that He holds the key that can open every door….that what He shuts, no can open, and what He opens, no one can shut.  He says,  “See, I have placed before you an open door!  I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept My word and have not denied My name.”  A little later He exhorts them to “hold on to what you have, so that no one can take your crown.” 

What I hear Jesus telling me is He can open any door He chooses for me, if it will bring Him glory. If I hold fast to Him and believe His word…that He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all I can ask or imagine….then I will have the grace to walk through that open door into His dreams for my life!  I must resist the devil’s lies by refusing to deny that Jesus is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE!  If I live this way, He will let me be a part of His redemption and restoration story in the world, and He will be waiting to welcome me into His glory one day soon, to share in the incredible rewards of what HE has accomplished! 

So is the Lamplighter Guild beyond me?  Yes.  Are the dreams God has put in my heart to use writing and other gifts beyond me?  Yes.  On my own I can do nothing.  BUT…..these things are NOT BEYOND MY GOD!  Nothing is beyond my God….NOTHING! 

And He is your God, too.  He longs for every one of His children to soar high in this kind of faith, believing in the God who does the impossible!

The one who gave the vision still calls.  He has a purpose for my life and for yours that goes far beyond one single week in time or a certain experience or limited human capabilities.  What is He calling you into, for such a time as this?