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… 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?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Lyrically Inspired

Yeah.  I know.  My writing took a couple skips and then dropped right off a cliff.  But I am not giving up my resolve.  Just having some hiccups.  There's been a lot going on in the last month. Isn't that the story of life for most of us?  Not a good excuse.  Still.  Come on, creative juices.  We need to warm up here.  In less than a week I'll be on my way to a unique creative arts workshop in the mountains of New York, put on by the renowned Lamplighter Ministries.  And I don't feel ready.  But ready or not, I'm going!

So....where were we?

I'm not going to try to dig into the deep recesses of ideas I have tucked away to write about someday. Today, just for the sake of revving up my engine and writing something, I will share some rather random inspiration that came to me last night while trying to fall asleep.

This inspiration comes in the form of song lyrics.  A song that I have on my nighttime playlist on my ipod.  The song is May It Be, made popular by Enya, Celtic Woman, and The Lord of the Rings film. It is not a spiritual song, per se.  But as I listened to the lyrics, I realized there are some spiritual truths in it.  If you are familiar with the song, particularly in the context of the Lord of the Rings story, you may enjoy these insights.

For your reference, here is how the song goes....

May it be an evening star shines down upon you
May it be when darkness falls your heart will be true
You walk a lonely road; Oh how far you are from home

Mornie utulie (darkness has come)
Believe and you will find your way
Mornie alantie (darkness has fallen)
A promise lives within you now

May it be the shadows' call will fly away
May it be your journey on to light the day
When the night is overcome, You may rise to find the sun

We see in Lord of the Rings something of a spiritual journey.  An epic battle between darkness and light.  A journey of some of the smallest, most unlikely candidates for heroism, through shadow and suffering and great temptation,,,,,a quest to destroy the darkness or die trying.  A quest to save whatever remains in Middle Earth that is good and beautiful and carries the promise of a brighter future.

I would suggest some spiritual parallels in these lyrics to our own journey through life.

The evening star to shine upon you.....In Scripture, Jesus Christ is called not the evening star, but the Morning Star!  He says, "I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12  As we walk in the darkness of this broken, sin-twisted world, Jesus is our guiding star, the light leading us through, and as the Morning Star, He heralds a coming dawn!  Hope!  A glorious future!  An emergence out of darkness and evil.

A true heart when darkness falls....darkness is upon this world, but if we cling to Jesus, the Truth, He will keep our hearts steady and show us the way to walk.  There are times in our lives when a certain darkness will fall upon us....a darkness of trial, a night of the soul....illness, depression, loss, grief, crisis....and in those times, we need faith and hope in Jesus to strengthen our hearts and pull us through.  Only He can keep your heart true in the hardest moments.  Only He gives you a heart to cling to Him.  We are weak, but He is strong!

You walk a lonely road....oh how far you are from home.
We are not home in this world, because it has been corrupted from what it was meant to be.  The Bible says the children of God are like strangers and aliens in the world, looking for a better country, a homeland.  Our home is the presence and glory of Jesus Christ.  Heaven is our home, and one day soon Jesus is going to make everything new and bring heaven to earth!  The journey here can be very lonely.  Followers of Jesus walk the road less traveled.  We feel far from Home as the end of the race and the final consummation of what we will be....but we are never far from Him.

Darkness has come, and darkness has fallen.....
Right now, the prince of this world is Satan.  Also known as Lucifer, the angel of light.  He masquerades now as an angel of light, but in truth his light has become darkness, because He thought to make Himself God to be worshiped.  So we are living in the territory of the prince of this world, the prince of darkness.  His shadow lies over us like the shadow of Mordor in Middle Earth.  But that's all it really is....a shadow.  The valley of the shadow of is nothing to be feared, because if you belong to Christ, death cannot actually hurt you, and evil cannot touch you!

Believe and you will find your way.....yes, if you believe in the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life....Jesus Christ, Son of God!  "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved."  Acts 16:31

A promise lives within you now.....As children of God, we have the Holy Spirit within us as the promise, or guarantee, of our inheritance.  He assures our hearts that we are children of God, adopted into His family, and heirs of all His glorious riches for eternity!  We do not yet see all of our inheritance, or hold it in our grasp, but it is ours.  Faith teaches us to confidently hope that we already have what we cannot yet see.  It is like a financial trust that is held for a child until he comes of age. We have this promise that we will "come of age" as sons of God and receive everything that He has prepared for us!

That the shadows' call will fly away.....the prince of this world and his shadow of evil are always trying to lay claim on us.  But one day he will be forever defeated and banished....Jesus has already won the victory on the cross!  On that day we will never again have to fight the shadow calling to us....we will live in the light of God Himself, in whom is no darkness or shadow of turning!

May it be your journey on to light the day.....
Jesus told His disciples that we are the light of the brightly lit cities on a hill that draw those lost in darkness to His salvation.  Part of our purpose and journey through this world is to light up the darkness.....and if we run the race with endurance to the end, our lights will be swallowed up in the endless day of God's glory!

When the night is overcome, you may rise to find the sun....
This is the most wonderful line in the whole song!  Can you see how it speaks of the glorious destiny of our journey as sons and daughters of God?  We know that the night of sin, evil, and the great dragon, Satan, will soon be finally overcome, and we will be raised to immortal life in the kingdom of the SON....where there will be no need for the sun to light the day, because God and the Lamb will be the light of that kingdom, and there will be NO MORE NIGHT!
"And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb."  Rev. 21:23
"They will see [God's] face, and His name will be on their foreheads.  And night will be no more.  They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever!"  Rev. 22:4-5

So there you are.  May it be, indeed.....this is the great hope and assurance of the redeemed children of God....that these things WILL be....because Jesus Christ has made them so, through His death and resurrection!  And all the people said....AMEN!!!