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.”
Oswald Chambers once wrote that some things revealed in the spirit are difficult to convey in words. As I write this sentence this morning, I see now I why God told me to create a picture. The revelation He gave is a rich reality not intended to be easily digested, or dismissed. It is so profound that He wanted me to experience the supernatural moment, but also to fully appreciate the sensation in the natural. And, he wanted me to take a picture so that I could remember it, and share it. Why? Because this truth is for us all. So allow me to create the backdrop of the Masterpiece.
I was lost in worship at church. It was one of those surreal moments when His presence was so strong that people responded by singing, crying, sitting or standing with outstretched arms. It was heavy, soaking, glorious. In a word, we were undone. As I sang, I realized that I kept rubbing my fingers across my forehead. Suddenly aware of how foolish it seemed, I asked the Lord, “Why am I doing this?”
The verse out of Revelation came to my spirit about his name being written on our foreheads. I laughed in my heart and told Him I was rubbing in the name that he had written on my forehead so it wouldn’t fade away. “What would it say anyway? Jeee-sus?” I asked in a silly sort of way.
“No, that’s my name. That’s not my name for you.” His penetrating response shook off my childishness in an instant.
Now I have a long history with God about names. All through scripture, and today, we see God changing people’s names. He gives us new names, even pet names, to show us our destiny or to strengthen our confidence in Him. It is a huge jump in affection when we faith Him to tell us our names, we receive that name and eventually agree with His new name — his idea of who we are becoming, not what we currently see.
That being said, I asked Him if it was my “new name” written on my forehead?
“No, today it’s different,” He said. So I waited in worship.
Then I saw myself standing in front of Him, my head bowed, a smile on my face, and the word “Beloved” written on my forehead.
Tears rolled down my cheek in the natural as I experienced this holy picture in my spirit. I am, we are, Beloved. Known intimately and received completely by Jesus. Not collectively, but individually. He holds nothing back from us. He calls each one of us, writes on each of our foreheads His distinctive declaration. Not a number. But a name, a lovely, awe-inspiring, worship-invoking name. Beloved. His Beloved.
And then. Then came the oil. After the kiss, I saw the Lord pour oil on my head and I heard, “I anoint your head with oil. The oil of gladness.”
To say I was wiped out would be an understatement. I could hardly speak the rest of the night. The next day I could think of little else as I thanked the Lord for his beauty, nearness, and desire. But He wasn’t done with me yet. He kept reminding me that He wanted me to create a picture. I wanted to protest, but how could I refuse Him?
So I asked the girls to help me follow through on something the Lord had told me to do, even though it sounded crazy! Salem wrote on my forehead and Charis poured oil while Salem took pictures. Can you even imagine the expressions on their faces? But we did it all together. And as I relived in the physical world what I had experienced in the heavenly one, even more love exploded in my heart and spirit.
Can you see this word on your forehead? It is there. Written by Jesus himself.
Now let me show you the verses in their fullness and colorful beauty.
The River of Life
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life,
bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God
and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city;
also, on either side of the river, the tree of life
with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month.
The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
No longer will there be anything accursed,
but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,
and his servants will worship him.
They will see his 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.
Revelation 22: 1-5
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. Is 61:3
God has used both of these passages in my own life to reveal hope and healing and destiny. But He has also purposefully planted these promises in me so I can give them to others. It is His heart is for His people. He gives us these truths so that we can walk, no run, no DANCE in the joy of Being His.
After this all happened I was reading a new book and saw the phrase, the Oil of Intimacy. I had to put the book down.
That was it. Precisely. He pours on me, you, us, the oil of intimacy.
Oil. Produced by crushing and refining. A product for softening, nourishing and healing. A product for burning, lighting, or scenting — anointing.
Intimacy. A result of two hearts connecting in deepest places. The two becoming one flesh. In-to-me-you-see. To know and be known, to love and be loved. Be loved. Beloved.
Can I get an Amen?
I can hardly contain all this as it is…but this morning He reveals two more pieces. First, this revelation comes on the heels of an encounter that had come the week before where I was left with a hard question of “who will you become?” He had shown me three different pictures going from devotion to distraction. I have wrangled over the answer and He himself answered His question. I am His Beloved. I am His.
And second, as incredible as it sounds, my friend Chelsi sends me a link to a song this morning. It’s name? “Healing Oil” by Kim Walker. Think He is wanting me, wanting us, to soak in His goodness?
So what to do with all this? Maybe you should have someone write the word Beloved on your forehead and take your picture. It is very sobering.
Maybe you should pour oil over your hands, or head if you dare. Feel the sensation of the richness, let your spirit and your body agree…His has anointed us with the oil of gladness. It is ours for the taking.
Maybe you should sit in quiet or worship and eagerly desire the presence of God. He inhabits the praises of His people. So He is eager to be with you as well.
Maybe you should just thank Him. Thank Him for calling you Beloved.
We are His beloved. Let Him write on you. Let Him pour oil on you. Let Him love you.
Years ago, I remember reading a profound little book called Gifts from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh. I was a new Christian, a wanna-be writer and a newlywed. Her book was so deep and so grown up, I missed much of her wisdom the first time I read it.
It seemed surreal that she would leave her family, or could leave it, just to go to a beach to unwind and write. And yet, here I am — waiting, seeking what the ocean might bring to my distracted soul; here I am yearning for the presence of God. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
Like my sister from generations passed, I am disentangling myself from the daily demands of family, work, ministry, and life. They are beautiful cords that weave through and decorate my life. Yet I confess the tautness and pull of them sometimes knot up my mind. (I suspect I am not alone.) Ann Morrow described a woman’s life being the hub of a wheel with responsibilities and relationships emanating outwards in constant motion. That said, it required so much trust and courage to step out of the circle of motion and to take the time to unknot myself. Oddly, I find it is the very lack of pace that leaves me uncomfortable.
What do I do with my time? Now that I have removed all excuses and counterfeits, what is best done with my sabbathed energies and emotions?
Yesterday the word was affection. We talked about hearts. But not sea shell hearts, although I have found many. He showed me hearts in the sand, hearts outside crab holes, hearts in sea foam, in the clouds, in tree leaves.
His love is everywhere. Will I simply see it and receive it?
His love is everywhere. Is there anything more present or powerful?
His love is everywhere. Am I walking in the boldness of a well loved woman?
As I look back on my God journey, I realize my soul was awakened by the ocean. From a child who giggled at first sight, to a twenty-something who stood by the sea and cursed my life for its bitterness and loneliness, to a young married consumed with “what would be one day”, to a wonder-filled diver who explored the glorious underwaters, to a forty-something who realized that I was not alone as I picked through the trinkets of the sea — God had been there, was there, would be there. He is here. Now.
My conversations have changed over the years and the beach trips. This time together, we dream and enjoy and ponder. The conversations are as diverse as the tides that roll in differently every day. One day it is fierce and windy, leaving me breathless and slightly off center; another day is warm with gentle waves urging me closer.
Every day there are different lessons and perspectives. But always, always is the “voice of many waters”. Always is the rushing energy, the pounding roar, the blue visual feast that stretches out beyond my comprehension. Every day is the welling up in my spirit, in my deepest heart that often goes overlooked or undernourished when I am in the “hub mode.” God is for sure the center of my life, but life itself is draining as “the wheels on the bus go round and round.”
So to pull away, to hear him, to laugh and muse, to tease and argue, to deeply intercede for others in a focused way…it replenishes me in the same way the dry sand hungrily soaks up every drop as the waves wash ashore.
What do I do with so much time with the God of the ocean?
Soak Him in.
Find your place, your beach, your sabbath. Find your spirit again.
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
The rain in the night brought rough waves and ocean gifts the next morning. As the tide rolled out it left a trail of treasures like opened toys on Christmas morning. The large lump on the beach drew special attention. Walkers swerved to look at it and continued on their clipped pace. Children, held firm by watchful mothers, stopped to gaze from a safe distance. Even ever-hungry seagulls took a tentative peck at it. For more than an hour it was a topic of wonder and sadness— another jellyfish washed ashore.
It was my friend, Heather, who kept going back to it over and over. Finally she leaned close —observing, waiting, watching and then she bee-lined it back to our lounge chairs.
“I think that jellyfish is still alive,” she said, slightly out of breath. In a moment I was sitting there processing data:
It may have been alive, but its now been out of water too long.
Do we care if a jellyfish is alive? After all, that is one less potential sting in the gray Atlantic water.
How does one rescue a jellyfish?
She looked at our non-response, perplexed. “I see things moving on it,” she insisted, as if we had not heard her or believed her. “Its gill things are flapping.”
“It’s trying to breathe, I guess.” I said out loud. Something about that statement shocked me into action. A flurry of activity followed. With a float, a small umbrella, and smaller courage, we marched back down the beach to see our potential patient or corpse. It was a cannonball jellyfish but its normally dome head was flattened on one side like a ball that had lost its air. Still its wavy fringes remained a deep red. I slid the jelly onto the float with the umbrella, walked knee deep into the water, and slung the gellish blob back into its salty home. And we waited.
It bobbed in the water on its side the same way it had landed in the water. A wave rushed over it and then we only saw the dome head. I expected it to come back toward me in the tide so I stepped back out to ankle deep water. But instead of coming toward me, it went deep and was gone.
I stood there in a holy moment. Why had I just let that creature lie there for so long suffering? Why had I assumed its condition instead of investigating? Why had I been so slow to respond to my friend’s urgent face and plea for help?
It was just one stupid jellyfish. Who cares? But it wasn’t. It was me, and my friends, and all of us lying on the beach. Someone had taken the time to stop and look at us. Instead of leaving us for dead, or looking at our misery out of curiosity or warning, or trying feed off our helplessness, someone took the time to lean down, get close, and look for signs of life. Someone bothered to bring us back to the Living Water.
After high-fives for our heroic rescue, Heather told us that the brain is in the jelly’s dome. “You could see things working and moving in there.” she said with wonder. The true wonder is that she had to get close enough to see that. She had to risk herself to rescue it.
Rescue. God’s heart beats with a desire for rescue. Take time today to look at people around you. Who lies helpless on the beach in need of someone to get him or her back in the water of life? Don’t assume you already know the diagnosis. Look for signs of life.
You don’t have to take them home to raise. Just give them a push back in the right direction so they can breathe again.
Be the person that makes a difference. Be the person who responds to a cry for help. You never know whose life will be saved. It might be your own.
Photo by Heather Terflinger
Marriage is a relational Rubik’s cube
I love this mind-tester. You keep moving the squares trying to get one color lined up and then the other side is jacked up. So you spend time trying to get that color matching and… well.. you know the rest. One silly square out of place. Is this frustrating or fun, or both? Am I crazy? stupid? And of course there are always the “smart ones” who slam it down completed in 12 seconds or less. Yeah. We hate those people.
Marriage can look a lot like this. It’s heart- tester if you will. You work on this part of your relationship and then something (or someone) else gets out of whack. So you adjust hoping to “get it all together” at one time. Sigh. And much like the toy, there are the couples who say, “We have never had a fight.” Yeah we hate those people too. (Just kidding. Sort of. )
But hope rises with practice. As with the Rubik’s cube, it takes skill to master the myriad of relationships. I really thought in our marriage it was just me and Chuck, two sides, two colors. No problem. In fact, our families were not in our equation of marriage, or so we thought. However, idea of “just the two of us” got pretty crowded pretty quickly. Turns out you can’t get rid of your roots. It was me and Chuck and my family and his family. My friends and his friends. My teachers, enemies, old lovers, and role models, and his as well. Then you add children. The colored squares just multiplied. Again.
These ghosts of past, present, and future really impacted our ability to connect, trust, and listen to each other. The way our respective parents would fight, make up, handle money, do God — all that was sitting at the dining room table with us when we were trying to fight, make up, handle money, and do God.
One day in the early years, this came into full view. Chuck and I were fighting (for you couples who “don’t” that means the two of you disagree loudly) and he looked at me and said, “I am not your dad. I am not your ex. I am not your brothers. I am not your professor. I am not any of those guys…”
What courage and insight it was for him to lay it out for me so plainly. I wasn’t even listening to what Chuck was saying. I had gone into auto-pilot reaction as if I was confronting one of them.
This is true whether you had a great life history or not. We have been relationally trained by others, for better or for worse. And we have to learn how to relate in a loving way to our mates. Here is a newsflash.
It takes time to learn to be truly present and listening.
Not recalling old wounds, offenses or disappointments. Not thinking of your to do list or rebuttal. Not letting old triggers cause you to react instead of engage. But instead, really listening to the present need or issue of the moment. Really lending your heart and spirit to the moving parts of the relational Rubik’s cube”— it’s called relationship. Friendship. Companionship. It’s not easy but worth it.
Honesty, patience, safety, hope. These four qualities totally change the condition of most marriages. They are not something you demand from your mate, but something you cultivate with God and then pour it out on your mate. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes God.
“I never thought marriage would be this much work.” How many times have I heard this? Ever tried to work a Rubik’s cube? That’s a toy. This is for life.
Marriage has shown me my lack of grace, my need for grace, and the reality of God’s grace.
I have these random memories. Like puzzle pieces, God put things into place long before I was even aware He was working on me. One memory is of my arrogant self telling our supposed pre-marrital counselor (snort) that “I am a great catch. And I don’t need Chuck, but I choose him.” (Poor counselor. Poor Chuck.)
“Would you quit your job?” he said looking me dead in the eye without flinching. He had nailed my pride, independence, superiority. Shocked by the suggested sacrifice, I had to sit squarely and solemnly in the reality of being a liar. I wouldn’t really do ANYTHING. I only wanted to do enough to make Chuck act better for me. After a great deal of gnashing my teeth with God, I realized that He could and would do ANYTHING — if my heart was humble before Him.
So I did. It did. God did. I quit my job and launched my marriage in a different direction. God was up to something better for me, for us. My marriage radically changed when I saw my lack of grace for Chuck and I acknowledged my need for grace to let go of ideas and actions that were poisoning my marriage. It is one thing to say you’re committed; it is another thing to act committed —especially when those acts require sacrifice. Jesus knows all about the cost of sacrifice, and it’s why He offers us His loving grace to do it.
From years 10-15, there are lots of memories and journal entries of “when Lord, when” or “why Lord why” or “help, Lord help.”
Funny now to think of it all. I don’t how God carried us, but He did. Every day. 8030 days. Sometimes we walked with Him. Sometimes He carried us in His arms while we were sleeping, or weeping, or too sick to walk. Sometimes, He pulled us along, His firm hand clamped around ours, as we kicked and screamed down the road He had determined. But He was there from the start in all the chaos, dreams, and questions. From the start He was planting life and hope and renewal. And as we went along He whispered…
“Look at Me.”
“Expect Me to Change Things.”
“Believe for Good.”
I know folks married 30 – 50+ years are laughing at me. In that world of marital staying power, I am only a youngster. But if you are under the 20 year mark, you need to know that God’s grace really is yours. It’s not a pithy church statement. It is a divine fact, a gift, an investment. He pours in to us what we cannot manufacture on our own. He never gets tired, frustrated or quits. We might, but Jesus doesn’t.
His grace is always available, and it comes to those who know they need it. Chuck and I have grieved over our hard-headedness and hard-heartedness. Why did we wait so long to humble ourselves before God and before each other in so many sticky places?
Our goal now is to shorten the recovery time. After this many years, we are learning to bypass the manipulation by silence or anger or emotional explosions. We are more eager to get to the heart of the matter…. Really, the Heart of the matter. God’s heart. Chuck’s heart. My heart. “God what am I missing here? I am committed to this person more than I am committed to being right, so give me grace to see what you see.”
Even in those times when one of us was more eager for health than the other, Grace happens. I have found that many times the only reason ONE person is still holding on, is because God’s grace is at work. With so much marital collapse all around, we shy away from clinging to His grace and our vows. Yet I believe it is a sure promise for those who desire to cross the finish line.
Truly, His Grace is all sufficient. For every need, He is there.
So yesterday I listened to a pastor unpack one of my favorite verses, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 He said when our own hearts are hard and full of self that God fights against us and that we often we feel that fight in the hardness we experience from others. Ouch, I thought. Been there, done that.
But God, more importantly, gives supernatural help and divine favor when we lay down our rights and demands and trust Him to transform the situation. We surrender our hurt and anger to God and ask Him to change both of us. Then God is free to pour out grace and help to us when we understand that we can’t do it alone, but we also know that only God truly sees the best way. His ways are perfect.
Okay, that is meaty enough. BUT here is the Holy Spirit revelation. When the pastor was talkng about how God pours out lavishly into the person who is humble before Him, the Spirit began talking about singing. He teaches us new songs about His love. He keeps singing them to us, over us, in us. He sings until we sing with Him. Then we begin to sing it to others.
In a moment He reminded me of the new worship song He is planting in my heart. I heard it “randomly”. I hit repeat, listening over and over. Then I heard it in my sleep. Then I began singing it. The other night I was singing it out loud as I was cooking dinner. My family came in and asked what I was singing? So we all listened to the song together. On the way to school the next day, the girls and I sang this new worship song together. Perfect picture of how He sings to us. All these dots connected for me in a moment, right? Here comes the kicker.
“What is your song of grace?” He asked me. Selah.
God wants our hearts to be so tender towards Him, so empty of distraction by others, that His favor blows through us, as music fills the air. And when we learn His songs of grace, we can go sing them over others. All this by way of humility.
Humble yourselves therefore under God’s mighty hand that He may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6
Here is the beautiful song… Fall Afresh, Jeremy Riddle, Loft Sessions
Time to get serious. The WGR class topic of “Appetites, Addictions, and Affections” is really challenging me about why do we want what we want? And why are we rarely satisfied with what we want?
You can watch the classes online for these revelations about desire gone awry and its rescue. But for a sobering affect, I am sharing this photo from one of my summer cleansings.
66. Actually 66 pairs of shoes. There’s a good excuse or story about each pair. Sure some of them are old. Sure some of them are “special occasion” only. Some were from Goodwill, some were gifts. But stilll…66 pairs of shoes? Really?
I made myself pull them all out on the floor and look at them. It was gross. It was excessive. It was gluttony of a different kind. I had a flashback to high school when I had only four pairs of shoes. I had a flashback to my Zimbabwe trip in 2010 when the children and adults had No pairs.
I want to share part of my personal mandate. It was a holy moment when Jesus whispered a secret in my ear of where we were going together. (Only in part you understand, He rarely gives us full detail.) And after a moment of incredulous joy I took a deep breath and said, “Wow, how are we going to that?”
“You must reorder your life,” He said.
That was in December 2011. And in the last 13 months He has continued to refocus my energies and attentions. He has brought books about simplifying, fasting, and letting go. He’s revealed moments of just how deep the affection for “more” really is in my heart. One moment was while we were on vacation. The beach condo we stayed at had a wickedly beautiful walk-in closet. Chuck and I walked in and giggled, “Yeah baby, how about this?” “This is what I need,” I said. “I hate how small our closets are at home.” I have an ongoing battle with my clothes being hung and put away, therefore clothes are often in piles on the floor.
Fast forward a couple of weeks through times with the Lord and some very pointed books about excess. I stood in front of my small but sufficient walk-in closet and I said out loud to the Lord, “How about I get rid of enough clothes to fit in my closet instead wanting a bigger closet for more clothes?” I felt Him nod in happy agreement. Hence the reason my floor was covered in shoes.
Does it sound noble that I whittled my collection down to 33 pairs? Can I actually stomach the thought of that many pairs of shoes even though some of them are only worn once or twice a year? This is just one area of balancing that I am going after.
Here is what I am doing. You are welcome to join me. I am flushing my excess throughout my whole life. We swept our bedrooms, including the girls’ rooms. If I don’t curb my “more” appetites, how will they learn they don’t “need” every toy, shirt, shoe, and stuff, stuff, stuff. They are so much happier now that there is room for “them” in their room, instead of their stuff. Then there are the books, our junk piles, my food choices. (Perhaps, just perhaps, Starbucks and Diet Coke is not a constitutional right.)
I asked a ministry that serves the homeless if they would take our clothes. “Gladly, the homeless wear coats all year long,” she said. I put two coats in the box and was thankful and humbled that I had so many to choose from.
Here is the bottom line. God is asking me, and maybe you, to slough off those “things” that require our time. What do I spend time doing? Is it really necessary? If I didn’t have that, would I live? Would I have more time? more space to think? more energy to be with Him?
Not a hermit mindset, but a free one. More is really attainable. But it probably starts with less.
You can watch the WGR class topic of “Appetites, Addictions, and Affections.” online for more revelations about true freedom.
As we think about appetites this month it is good to know that you are not bad for having them. It is more a question of what do you do with them? How do you sort whether they are good or bad for you? Be sure to check out our first two WGR classes as we mull over some tough questions.
But for today let me relay a God story. He has such a sense of humor…
This weekend I turned over two different calendars since we just began February. And to my surprise the verse was the same. I have never had that happen before.
An even greater surprise was the selected verse — Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.”
Isn’t He funny? We have talked about that verse for the last two weeks in WGR class. One translation is: I lack no good thing. Here we are talking about appetites and God is already giving us a clue to the answer. Because God is my shepherd, I don’t HAVE to want. Re-read the first three verses of Psalm 23. Then work on believing them. Don’t just blow past this. Soak in His truth so your truth system will line up…
Stay tuned. More to come.