When God Answers In Crazy Ways

In the White House, they call it the news cycle. On the TV, they call it breaking news. In the human heart, these predictions create sheer panic.   Yet there is a greater revelation in of all the natural disasters and it hit me like a lightning bolt this morning.  I was watching a  clip from Steve Hartman on CBS Evening News  about how we went from rioting, protesting, hating each other one week to rescuing, serving, saving one another the next week.

Then I recalled this photo circulating on social media.

This is the wonder moment.  Me and my praying friends, and I am sure you and your praying friends, have been asking God to do whatever it takes to bring peace.  I have been releasing the Shalom of Heaven over the violent mood of our country.  And suddenly,  our differences have turned from throwing words and punches to throwing prayers and supplies.

Has God used these natural disasters to bring about the prayed for perspective shift?

I understand if you are living through and after these catastrophic events, it is hard to imagine celebrating or lifting up praise. Yet my friend in Houston confirmed the shift saying there is an overwhelming sense of gratitude.  Even more, she said, once they started reconnecting with the rest of the world and heard about the devastation in India and surrounding areas, she and her community were humbled all the more realizing it could have been so much worse. “Even with the destruction, we were still blessed,” she said.

Now with Irma, the forest fires, the Mexican earthquake, and other life altering circumstances, can we or will we maintain our confidence in a good God?

He is NOT bringing judgment. That is Old Testament rhetoric that has no place this side of the cross.

What we can see all through the Bible however is a God who is our “ever present help in time of need.”

This morning as I rejoice that Irma has reduced from Category 5 to 4, I am still praying for the storm to move, subside, or shift. I am still believing for rain. I am still believing for comfort for Houston and other affected parts of the world.

And. My spirit has paused to thank God for reminding us of who we all are.  Human beings. Each and every one worthy of love and dignity.  Maybe, just maybe, God has answered our prayers by showing how valuable life really is.

Creeping Under The Gates of Hell

When I first stumbled through my overcrowded garage and my bare foot touched the tentacles on the floor, I let out a scream and jumped back.  With my phone flashlight in hand, I crept up, somewhat embarrassed, to realize these “tentacles” were instead a tenacious vine.

(We are in East Tennessee after all and pretty far from any invasion of an octopus, wink.)

But still I couldn’t figure out what the heck this vine was doing creeping under my door. It was so sickly. Clearly it was dying. I started to pull it up but stopped short.

I don’t know why I let this vine interrupt my mission. I was confounded. Why would a vine be trying to get IN my garage. There is no sunlight, no nutritional soil, no means of water.  It simply could NOT survive.

Then I heard this crazy whisper, “Raise the garage door.”

So I did.

“The gates of hell will not prevail.” I heard the Spirit say.

I stood there in awe.

Who knew this vibrant, green, luscious plant was on the other side of the garage door? Who knew is seemingly sickly yet unyielding vine was wholly and happily sustained by a stronger, larger network of plants?

This! This is what the true Church is. This is what the Body of Christ, the Life of God, whatever language you know, is all about.

Christ in us, the hope of glory.

This is what “Jesus alive in us” is all about. The plant is Not dying but fully alive in the mother plant. And the mother plant is spreading and multiplying in every direction.

Likewise, the Spirit of God in us is invading this world, even the dark, void of light garages of our world. And it is in a word, unstoppable.

We don’t have to be afraid of the dark.  Life is sliding under the door.

And the gates of hell cannot keep it out.

 

Pearls of Wisdom: The Love of Learning

More than a grade, or title, or worldly notion of success is a very God-centric notion of learning. Our very DNA is divinely wired to learn, to explore, to discover because we were made to create. Perhaps the greatest minds are great because they have mastered the hardest lesson: learning to love learning.

 You must know the old story of the student who came to the master.

The Student
A talented young warrior goes to the school of a famous teacher, intent on being accepted as a student. The teacher invites the student in, and as they sit waiting for a pot of tea to steep, the student begins to tell the teacher about his enemies, about the battles he has won, those he has lost, and the times victory has been unfairly snatched from his grasp.  He talks about the techniques he has mastered, his own students, and most importantly, what he expects this teacher to teach him.

img_9125

The teacher smiles politely. He watches. He listens. He waits. Finally the tea is ready and the teacher begins to pour a cup for his visitor. The small cup fills to the brim and the teacher, still looking at his guest, keeps pouring. The cup overflows and tea begins to spill across the table, and down, onto the student’s lap. After an uncomfortable moment, the student finally jumps up and yells, “Stop, Master! Stop! The cup is full. You can’t put any more in.”  The master, still smiling and still looking at the student, slowly stopped pouring the tea, and says, “Yes. The cup is just like you. Already full. I will not be able to teach you anything until you come to me with a cup that is empty.”

Empty cups can be perpetually refilled, if we are willing to be poured out. Be less concerned about being full and more concerned about using what you have learned to impact the world around you. Then get filled again to pour out. And repeat.

Continue reading

Pearls of Wisdom: What’s Your Alabaster Box?

“We have this treasure in earthen vessels
to show that this power is from God and not from us.” 

Unlike the Olympians we are celebrating, I spent years feeling worthless, disqualified and inadequate. All through high school people told me I had “lots of potential,” however, I didn’t really have a  clear vision about what to do with this supposedly budding possibility. So years after high school and college, with a life in ruins, I felt all my potential had resulted in nothing more than dried up, broken rubble.

God found me in this broken state. Because He is so kind, He set about to repair me, to mend and heal. Even redefine me.  God began telling me who I was in His eyes. His dreams about me. More than just some haunting, ever needing-to-be proven potential, God told me He dreamed of how His power could complete the work He began in me. He was moving through me, with me.

He washed off the disappointment I felt from myself and others. He washed off fear of failure and even the unwillingness to try. He redefined my idea of success. He had to because once I began to produce, my eyes were constantly looking for others’ approval.

God made things really simple for me. He said that all the gifts and callings in me were put there by His hand. Yes, there were natural talents from birth. But He had placed things in me that could only be accessed and released through Him, in relationship with Him.

I told Him I didn’t understand. So He gave me the revelation of the alabaster box. alabaster-jar

I so relate to the story in Luke when a sinful woman anointed Jesus. She had been completely overwhelmed and overhauled by the love of Jesus. She wanted to express her love and devotion so she poured costly perfumed oil on his feet and wiped it with her hair. You know the story, I am sure. The whole room was changed by her act of abandoned worship.

But here is what Jesus said to me:

Jana, your computer (it was a white iBook then) is like your alabaster box. Use your computer like oil to be poured out on Me as an act of worship. As you love on me, others may see your devotion and smell the aroma the perfume, but it’s for Me. I love it when you love on Me like this. I’ll change the room. You focus on Me.

What’s your alabaster box? Art. Sewing. Cooking. Math. Engineering. Or like we have seen lately, gymnastics, swimming, or diving.

I can tell you there was a shift from that day forward. It has taken a lot of pressure off my need for approval. Now, when I sit down to write or prepare, I present my alabaster box to the Lord. I ask Him what He wants to pour out of it. Simply put, whatever comes out, it’s for Him.

The oil of my devotion is for the One who gave me a new life. A life that’s not just full of potential, but full of His power. 

Verse adapted from 2 Corinthians 4:7

 


 

A Great Light Has Come…

If we aren’t careful, we will peer into the darkness and lose our hope. The mind-numbing pain of the death of a child or a parent. The squeeze of finances, even debting for Christmas gifts. Dreams not yet realized. Faith not yet rewarded. Healing not yet completed. World issues that rattle our core so that we break down borders or build up borders. The prophet Isaiah said it well, “Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.” (59:10)

But God. With us. In the very breath-crushing moment of your day, in the ache, the groan, remind yourself, “A great light has come into the world and the darkness cannot put it out.” This moment, your moment, is why Jesus came.  Your hopeless, helpless, overwhelming moment is why God sent His Son. His compassion made manifest through a baby.

10258742_10206177880341578_2404451087340133946_o

Continue reading

Let’s Stop the Noise and Start Praying

43,200 rapes. Murdered mother and unborn child. Toddler’s body washed ashore.

I try to write my new book which is oddly on the topic of supernatural rest. But while I attempt to type out these life changing revelations from God, my mind swirls with these recent news stories.  A sex trafficked victim who estimates she was raped more than 43,000 times. A pregnant woman shot in the head by a home invader, who later died as did her unborn baby. A drowned toddler who joins the countless other bodies washed ashore in Europe as they fled from their country.

I sit in the silence and look outside my window. It’s sheer beauty. Right here in front of me. Warm. Safe. Peaceful. But it’s not beautiful everywhere. Not warm, safe or peaceful.

What’s to be done?

I cry out to the Lord the only thing I know to say. “I care, Lord. I care. In the name of Jesus, I care about these people and other heart-breaking stories.”

And to be candid, there is more to the mental swirl. The “red cup” coffee fiasco. Various celebrity plastic surgeries and adulteries. The nauseous amount of Santa Clauses crowding my Thanksgiving shopping.

Again, I cry out to the Lord. “I don’t care. I don’t care. In the name of Jesus, I don’t care about this insipid world.”

red cup

Continue reading

Wild About You

New Class Starting: Wild About You
Our community class is shifting and shaking.
It is open to any woman. Period. Churched, unchurched, curious, desperate, lonely, hungry, even skeptical.  You are welcome. Broken or overflowing, God is doing something unique and you have a place here.

New name just to pique your interest.  What does it mean to do life with this Good but Wild God? We are going after a life-giving Love and learning how to pour that out on others.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

New location: Fuse Church, 1501 Kirby Rd, Knoxville, TN 37909. It is right behind Red Roof Inn off Papermill Drive. (It used to be Baileys Fitness or 180 Fitness) Come around to back of the church for easy entrance.

New schedule: We will meet weekly on Tues until mid November and then break for the holidays.

New faces: This is a great time to join in since we will be adding a lot of new people. We will have worship, teaching and time to really connect on a heart level.

 

Continue reading

“Darling, if you want me to be closer to you…”

I never get tired of the hilarity and the absurd closeness of God. Try to picture this.  I have just come back from a mind-blowing week of listening to people who are movers and shakers in the Kingdom. (More on that later.)  My head and heart is like a whirring blender full of questions, resurrected dreams, and — numbness.

What?

You heard me. Last week, I was so completely overwhelmed by the reality of God’s movement on the earth, so undone by the hugeness of God that my heart shifted into paralysis mode. I suddenly felt very, very small.  My efforts seemed so insignificant. My “risky” endeavors now seemed ridiculous and little.  Was I hearing from God at all? Did I have faith at all?

I told a friend at lunch yesterday, “One common theme from all the speakers was intimacy more than outcomes.”   Even my spoken revelation didn’t help me in this blurry moment. It did trigger a tough question in my spirit.

“Lord. Am I loving you well?”

IMG_6117

The question surfaced in my spirit at the conference. Here in the quiet aftermath, it surfaced again.

“Lord. Am I loving you well?”

After my lunch, I asked the question out loud in private, as in, wanting Him to answer. I really wanted some grand ray of sunshine to pour down out of heaven, or an angelic chorus, or a neon sign. Anything. But nada. Nothing. Silence. And to be honest, His silence scared me.

All I could do was cry out to the Lord. So I spent the day praying, seeking Him.  As I was going throughout my chore list, I just kept saying the same thing:  “Touch me again. Tell me again you love me. I am listening. I will do whatever you want.”

Nothing.

So I reviewed my notes.  I tried to collect the stories I had heard at the conference. I worshiped and studied. Still, nothing. No response.

Finally, I threw up this simple prayer more out of frustration than faith:

“Jesus.  I believe everything you have ever promised me. I know you love me even if I don’t feel it. I am going to stand on the truths you have deposited. I am going to move forward in faith, with or without the warm fuzzies. I am not quitting. I stop comparing myself to others. I love you. No matter what.”

I buried my thoughts in my work for a little while. When it was time to pack up, I noticed this oddly familiar song over the intercom. I hadn’t heard that song since high school. Who is that? Seals and Croft? Wait, what are they saying?

Darling if you want me to be closer to you
Get closer to me
Darling if you want me to be closer to you
Get closer to me
Darling if you want me to love, love only you
Then love only me
Darling if you want me to see, see only you
Then see only me

The lady in the store looked at me funny when I busted out laughing. God knows that is one of the few albums I owned in high school. God knows I have hardly heard that song since high school. God knows how to capture my heart. Again.

 But trust me, I didn’t miss the instruction. Get closer to Me. Love only Me. See only Me.
That whole intimacy over outcomes revelation? That’ll preach. That’ll change your life.
I am still unpacking my heart and head. But this is a great guide. He is always, ever always, after my heart. And that is the model we are to follow. To be ever always after His heart.
It’s not the What that matters, it’s the Who. And when the Who is rightly placed, then the What falls into place. It’s not the great feats, signs and wonders, tremendous salvations, or heroic endeavors, that matter. It’s the Great God of Love being well loved by His people that matters. Those other things will follow.
Here is something the Lord told me on my last beach trip. “Jana, your obedience is precious to me. There are seeds I have planted in you that will only grow through your obedience.”  Sometimes “Yes, Lord” and “I love you” mean the same thing.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17

 

 

Rain, Weeds, and the Good Gardener

I’ve just come in from weeding in the rain. Me and Jesus had quite the conversation so I thought I’d share some of His perspectives. It seemed at every turn God whispered lessons and thoughts, parallels and analogies.  How good He is to take the most mundane task and turn it into a devotional time, which leads to His first whisper.

“I don’t want to do this. I’m tired,” I said.

“I know. C’mon, it’ll be fun. We’ll do it together, ” He said.

Together.  Ah  yes.  He reminded me He is here with me. And my weeds. God reminded me of this download about worship. In short, when we do everything with our whole heart, when we do it for Him, it’s worship.

1) Worship is doing everything with Him and for Him.
“Got it. I’m not weeding, I’m worshiping. Here I go into the downpour,” I said, trying to sound cheerful.

Let me just say, I love walking in the rain. However. I did not want to pull weeds in the rain. So I debated whether the cool weather and soft soil would be worth the wetness. It was.

2) Sometimes the hardest step into the uncomfortable is the first step.
Once I got out there, it was actually enjoyable and the raindrops on my skin proved to be a mosquito repellent. Who knew? (Well, besides Jesus.)

3) Keep your garden watered.
The rain-soaked ground was so easy to work with. As I pulled up weeds and dug around my plants, the soil was pliable in my hands.  The weeds literally pulled up out of the ground with minimal effort. I had gone out couple of weeks ago but the ground was so parched that the weeds only broke off in my hand.

The Lord continued.

“See Jana, you have good dirt. It just needed a little rain to soften it up. And now the weeds come up root and all,” He said.  I pulled in silence for several minutes, but I was more and more aware of the all the weeds that had overtaken my garden.  I kept thinking about His comment of pulling up the weeds up “root and all.” I kept noticing the how soft the soil was because of the soaking rain.

“Kind of like repentance,” He added.

IMG_5914

 

Continue reading

Countdown to The Launching

I. Can. Hardly. Wait.  The Launching is only 8 days away.  God has been so powerful during our prayer times as we prepare for this weekend.  Please! Set aside your to-do lists for this window of time.  It is such a sweet opportunity to bring God’s women together for worship.

The team of speakers have been seeking God’s heart for what each woman needs to move forward, to rise up, to truly live in Him. Did you come last time?  This is fresh revelation, fresh manna. We aren’t going to serve old bread to you. So grab your sisters and come.  Did you miss last time? The only thing you need to know is God showed up and we know He will this time too. So grab your sisters and come. Smile.

Details:
It is July 10, Friday night from 7-9:30. Doors open at 6:15.
And July 11, Saturday morning from 9-12. Doors open at 8:30.
Location is Bridgewater Place. It is very near Walmart. In fact you pass the building as you get on I-40.

Cost is only $10 and there are no drinks or treats. So eat before you come, or bring your own beverage.

Pray for this time. God is on the move. We are believing for God to deeply impact the women who come to then in turn impact this city.

Smalllaunch