It’s For Freedom Christ Set Us Free!

Happy Fourth of July! And God’s favor on the freedom you enjoy today. I can’t help but ponder the 4th because, like most of our holidays, we are removed from the real pain and sacrifice of the individuals who broke the ground before us. It’s embarrassing really. I am trying to decide whether to grill hamburgers AND hot-dogs, as compared to my ancestors who were literally fighting with their lives for the independence I am now enjoying.

As a lover of Jesus, my freedom is doubly significant. He also fought with His very Life for the freedom I am now enjoying.

So what do I do with this outrageous gift?

Paul’s letter to the Galatians has thoughts about it.

“Plant your feet firmly therefore within the freedom that Christ has won for us, and do not let yourselves be caught again in the shackles of slavery.” (Galatians 1:5, Phillips Translation)

Did you enjoy my oh-soft-intro? Let’s heat it up a bit.

Here are the shackles of slavery we have been freed from:

Performance and legalism — futile efforts to try and to earn God’s love.
Politics and public opinions — attempts to deceive and distract us from God’s truth.
Selfishness and Pride — focusing on our accomplishments rather than God working in us
Fear of man’s rejection  — raising others above God’s opinion of us
Fear of death and hell — obsession or denial of a certain act and decided future

We are free from all of these, and so much more, in Jesus.

Which leads to the same questions spiritually we are asking as a country?

Can we maintain our freedom?
How do we maintain our freedom?
Are there areas where we have lost our standing?

“Beloved ones, God has called us to live a life of freedom in the Holy Spirit. But don’t view this wonderful freedom as an opportunity to set up a base of operations in the natural realm. Freedom means that we become so completely free of self-indulgence that we become servants of one another, expressing love in all we do. For love completes the laws of God. All of the law can be summarized in one grand statement: “Demonstrate love to your neighbor, even as you care for and love yourself.””  Galatians‬ ‭5:13-14‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

To which the pundits cry, what is love? How do I know if your idea of love is the same as mine?

It’s neither. It’s God’s idea of love because it’s God’s Son who bought our freedom.
We are grateful recipients of a life we could never attain on our own.

“But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you
is divine love in all its varied expressions:
joy that overflows,
peace that subdues,
patience that endures,
kindness in action,
a life full of virtue,
faith that prevails,
gentleness of heart,
and strength of spirit.
Never set the law above these qualities,
for they are meant to be limitless.

We must live in the Holy Spirit and follow after him.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23, 25‬ ‭TPT‬‬

It’s for THIS kind of freedom you have been set free. Free to be loved perfectly by Perfect Love.

 

Too Good To Be True?

If I am being really honest…I mean shockingly honest…the story of the cross sounds crazy to me. I’ve heard different iterations of it all my life. 

One man. A world of Sin. My debt. His sacrifice.

Then there is the part about rising from the dead. I mean, what even? 

And then I met Him. Really met this Beautiful King. Heart to heart and Spirit to spirit. 

Suddenly,  all of the pieces of this God sized, crazy-to-my-brain puzzle came in to place. I was reshaped. Or maybe, I became uncontorted by the world. Either way I found home and peace and this deep satisfying love.

The unbelievers say it’s a religion and a weakness of the masses.
The unbelieving believers say He is confined to a book and put in a box.

But the believing believers, the ones who “yāḏa” Him, who know Him intimately, are surely aliens in this world. Transformed by His love, we pour out our lives advancing an Eternal Kingdom and living for an Unseen King.

We are supernaturally alive in a natural world. Just like the power of love raised Jesus, He has raised us.

We have been raised to life again. Sound crazy? There are millions of witnesses, millions of miracles, millions of redemption stories that make crazy look like the sanest, truest thing ever.

“You will know the truth and truth will set you free.”

We celebrate you today Beautiful Jesus. Be honored in our hearts this Resurrection Sunday. 

Singing, how marvelous! how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be
How marvelous! how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

Burn the Root. Just Do It.

It was a beautiful sacred moment. We women sat around a fire asking Holy Spirit to reveal what was the mountain between us and His love. What were we hiding behind, holding on to, or avoiding that was hindering the flow of His life into our lives. That’s when the Lord pricked my memories.

I’m listening, Lord.

You have burnt a root before, do you remember?

The Spirit flashed scenes of my early relationship with God. It was like a movie trailer, moments of a story being unfolded. Yes, I did remember.

Chuck and I had moved to a country estate. The former owners had divorced and the property was likewise tired and neglected. I had a vision of resurrecting it. What I didn’t know is that God had the same idea about me.

So much deep heart work happened there with Jesus.  Dreams, visions, counsel in the night. I discovered my gifts and calling; I was embraced by His intimacy; I was equipped for warfare.

But before all of this was The Root.

We noticed a hairline crack across a sidewalk. Thinking nothing of it, we walked over it. For months.  Until we noticed the hairline was wider and deeper. And yet we walked over it without action. Years passed and now the hairline was a gaping crack and the concrete bulged up from the unseen issue underneath.

We tried the lazy man method first and dug out the flower bed beside the sidewalk to get a view of the culprit. Sure enough, it was a tree root. Just a tender slip of a thing, the width of two fingers, had caused extensive damage. Even so, the repair seemed too big, too much effort, and no further action was taken.

As you can imagine, it became a huge point of contention in my marriage. I wanted it fixed, Chuck did not. However, my heart shifted the day I walked over it and saw crocus blooming right by the root in the flower bed. I told the Lord I was sick of fighting about this with Chuck, and sick of complaining about it to Him. Turns out God was sick of both too.

I’m bringing beauty even out of this ugly. So bless it instead of curse it.

Okaaaaaay, I said. So instead of cussing Chuck and that damn root, I started blessing the story God would reveal in the process. Needless to say, all the while the root continued to grow.

One unexpected day, Chuck said, “I am going to dig up that root today.” I almost fell out of my chair. And dig he did. He pulled up the concrete step, shoveled the dirt out and we stood aghast at the root.

It was now the size of a man’s thigh.

‘I’m listening, Lord, I’m listening,’ I whispered in my spirit.

To Chuck’s credit, he cut and hacked and dug until the root was out. He filled the hole and replaced the concrete step, everything was back to normal. He took the gnarly, mud-covered root and threw it on the burn pile.

And there it lay. Ugly and exposed.  For weeks. I couldn’t stop looking at it.

The Lord was up to something and I avoided His dissection almost as much as Chuck had avoided digging up the root.

Finally one day it bubbled out. I had run aground relationally, again.  When I asked the Lord about what my problem was He just kept repeating the same thing, take care of The Root.

Honestly, at this point in my relationship with Him, I felt like a blind person groping around with my hands stretched out in front of me. Oh, but how He used this root to tutor me for the rest of my life.

To take care of my root, first I had to name it. To name it, I had to let Him search me and reveal the hurt and heartache I had experienced. They all had a common theme or root. For me it was rejection. What’s yours? That sting or ache or reaction that keeps getting triggered over and over.

The second step after naming it was literally giving it to Lord until I meant it. God wanted to know if I actually wanted it gone, or if I wanted to say I wanted it gone. There is a big difference.

This got flushed up when we went to burn the root. We stacked other wood around the root and started a fire. We had a beer, laughed and talked, and went to bed. When we got up the next day everything was ashes EXCEPT the root.

Okay God, I said. What is happening here?

I am not playing games. I am changing you. Do you actually want to be different?

Yes, Lord. Yes.

I remember I went out alone to the firepit and sat and looked at the root, acknowledged its sheer ugly, now-charred existence.  I confessed all the ways rejection had made me bitter, small, and hard-hearted. I acknowledged all the damage that had been caused by my unwillingness to address it. I forgave all the people who had rejected me. I forgave myself for all the people I had hurt through my rejection of them.

I sat in the presence of this ugly thing in me— with my God.

I finally, finally got to the place with God that I didn’t want this root anymore and asked for something better instead.

Burn the root, He said.

That night we went out again, but instead of roasting marshmallows, we took lighter fluid. We watched the root burn long and slow. When we got up the next morning for church, I went to the window to see the firepit. The root was gone.

I ran barefooted outside and stood over the pile of ashes. For some unknown reason, I started crying.

“What is happening Lord. Something is different.” I prayed out loud.

This is what freedom feels like. The root is gone.

That was 25 years ago. It is a profound spiritual marker of my journey. Every time rejection has raised its head, I have this place with God to return to, where beauty came from ashes. For real.

Do the hard work. Dig up the root. But don’t just leave it there. Burn it.

 

 

Let the Lion Roar

I still remember it. I took my daughter to the zoo. No big deal. I had been there so many times.  It was almost a ho-hum parent box to tick off.  But this day, this particular day was very different. We came up to the big cat area and we heard this sound that shook the ground. Literally— it shook us. We didn’t see the source but we felt the presence of the lion.  As we rounded the corner, there he was. He roared again. My daughter covered her ears and pressed closed to me. I just started crying.

That moment is fixed in my spirit.  The irony of this majestic creature inside a cage. The realization of “why” lions are called the king of the jungle, that mere roar invokes fear 5 miles away. The tears, however, were spiritual tears. The reality of the presence of Jesus hitting me as powerfully as the sound of the lion shook the ground.

CONQUERING LION.  This is who we love. This is who loves us.

Not a weak, passive, meowing kind of love.
But a fierce roar kind of love that breaks every chain.
Breaks the bones of the enemy.
Shakes the ground we walk on.
Shakes the hearts of those who fear Him and comforts every heart protected by Him.

Do you know what we are going after at the Roar Encounter? A deep spiritual wake up for believers and not yet believers alike. We want to get near enough to the Lion of Judah to feel our fears and lies and apathy shake to the ground as His presence washes over us.

Let the Lion Roar.

What’s In It for Me?

What’s in it for me?

If we are honest that is an engine that is always humming in the background of our lives. It is, after all, part of what helps us survive.

So let me get straight to it. The Restore Intensive is Feb 19. What’s in it for you is a long pause with the Lord. Maybe you have done the hard work in your heart and now is the question, what’s next? Restore is next. You will have opportunity to explore how you can rethink and rebuild places in your life the look a lot like ruins, or underdeveloped landscapes.

Soar is March 5, 2022. May I be candid? In our staff retreat yesterday we identified that our annual women’s encounter is for kittens and lions, and everything in between. It is for women who have been shut down, shut up and shut out of their own voice for so long that they don’t recognize themselves, or God.  And it is for lions who have grown in their love and life with God so that when they roar the enemy shakes.

We gather all these women, different ages and stages of life, different walks with God, churched and unchurched, and then we do the most important thing together. We seek His face.

There are real women telling real stories of real mess and how God showed up. It gets honest around here real fast.

So if your starving, stone cold, or white hot, both of these offerings actually are for you.

Ready to go deep!
Jana

What’s Your Spiritual Intention?

Retreats. Christmas Gala. Marriage Retreats. More offerings to come in 2022.

WHY all the fuss? Because we are firm believers that the “world is too much with us.”

So all of us at Greater Things pray and plan, dream and discuss what would help us all come closer to the Living God. How might we “spur one another on toward love and good deeds?” Some of us want to thaw out. Some of us want to burn hotter.  How does that happen in this too-much-with-us -world of endless options for entertainment, complacency, and time sucks?

I believe growth lies in the heart of intention. I can spout off about a great many lofty goals, but unless I put in some grit to take necessary steps, my goals are more hot air than action.

Distraction can be the enemy of intention.

Think of it. When they put the Christmas decorations up before Fall Festival was even here, did it bug you? Did it feel like a distraction to get you off track from the most important and imminent thing?  I had to work twice as hard to walk past that aisle to get the items I actually needed to complete the day’s tasks.

My intention drives my action.

However, those same Christmas decorations can also serve as beacons, to throw our attention and focus on the horizon. Do you notice that you are not thinking of fall festivals or pumpkin patches now? Your energy is on Thanksgiving menus and Christmas Gift Lists. The constant reminder of what’s coming, albeit perhaps for too many months, is paying off. Our intention is set on ringing in the Holiday season once more.

In the same way, Greater Things wants to offer beacons that stir your spiritual intentions.

If you want to grow in the Lord, you are invited to put in some effort. If you want to have meaningful relationships, you are invited to show up. If you want to learn new ways of living life with God and man, you are invited to add to your understanding and experiences.

This is why we have all these opportunities. For you to grow. For you to connect. For you to experience God in a whole different way.

God is worthy of our intentions. His heart is set on us. We hope to provide simple but helpful ways to help us all set our intention on Him.

Come find your place at His table.

Greater-Things.org/events

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resurrecting Motherhood: 1. Value

Resurrecting Motherhood. Just the words strung together send a tingle down my spine. And yet it is the rumbling that began in my spirit three years ago? Frankly, I just haven’t had the courage to do anything to release it. And now, in the quarantined days of April 2020, I see the time is here and the I also see the very big Why.

So in the strength God gives, let’s begin a journey of Resurrecting Motherhood.

Today’s topic is Value.

What do you value?

Ask any woman or mom that question and we would rattle off various answers. But most of those answers would revolve around people.

We are relational at our core. It’s in our spiritual DNA. Think of how women nurture, work behind the scenes, coach and counsel in countless conversations, spark connection, make things hum and whistle.

Hmmm. . .this sounds like Holy Spirit, but we will come back to that.

Women are wired for relationship. So then. Ahem. Here we are today and our kids/ husbands/homes are DRIVING US FREAKING CRAZY. lol But seriously.

I really don’t think it is Too Much time together.

I think it is Too Little connection being finally revealed.

Did I mention that this journey might be a bit difficult? Just stay with me. God is taking us somewhere.

And our first bite of truth is about Value.

Lately, I’ve heard mom’s say honest and powerful truths:

I don’t know who I am now. My identity has been stripped.

I see my family doesn’t really like each other very much.

In my own house, and heart, I have been confronted with we don’t really know each other. 

All of these, and so many more, have been flushed up by the shelter-at-home orders. God has a funny way of working, doesn’t He?

And just now, in the moment, the Spirit whispers, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Have you read Matthew 6 lately. I just read it again. The Lord’s Prayer. The teaching on fasting. The teaching on giving. The teaching on serving God and mammon. Uhmm it’s loaded.

But I want to pay attention to this verse today:

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[c] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[d] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

God is telling us where His idea of value is. Heaven. Heaven’s ways. What does heaven value, treasure? People. Not bank accounts. Not houses. Not stuff. People.

When your kids say “Mom” for the billioneth time, when they spill it AGAIN, when you just need a moment to be alone, when you need a hug or a cry or a scream. . . you don’t need a sappy tidbit. You need a divine truth. Lean back into His Divine Presence.

He treasures YOU! He will show you how to treasure your kids.

And today, I want you to see the verse right before this passage:
“your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

He sees. He knows. He will provide you with what you need, moment by moment, if you will value what He values. He values relationship. He highly values connection. He has entrusted you with TODAY with your children and family. Keep your eye on Him today breathing in this prayer,

“Spirit, my ever-present Parent, you understand what is means to be with your kids 24/7. In the same way that You love me non-stop, without running away, or crushing me, strengthen me to love my kids. Give me the desire to be connected to them the way You desire to be connected to me. Thank You for seeing and rewarding my effort. Amen.”

Remembering the Why

Merry Christmas from Our Greater Things House to Your House
Friends! Just want to take a deep breath and review all the Lord has done and is doing. We prayed at New Wine Church yesterday, “Lord please don’t let us have Christmas and miss You!” He is so worthy of our praise and adoration.
 
Through His power and your generosity, Greater Things has discipled multiple groups, with new groups springing off of these original gatherings. The GT house has been used for ministry to inner city teens, prayer meetings, worship nights, New Wine Church, men’s group, Kingdom Moms, The Unveiling Women’s Event, and our still unnamed Wednesday Women’s group. Wink.
 
We had our largest Beach Retreat to date and I can truly say it was ground breaking.
 
In addition, God has opened up a whole new territory for us as Chuck has gone on two mission trips this year to the Middle East. God told me while Chuck was gone that he would never be the same. “Part of his heart lives there now,” the Lord said. So we are planning and learning how to love on those from different countries there and also here.
 
And 2020? I don’t know if you ask the Lord for a word every year, but it is a practice I began years ago under the teaching from John Dee. The how-to is ask God for a word or phrase that He wants to deposit, teach or reveal to you in the coming year. It has been incredible to see Him move in this way and how we spur one another on in the process. Let me just say for this coming year my word is a doozy. I will have to unpack it for you as I get more clarity.
 
Speaking of clarity, a couple of REALLLLY fun things for 2020:
1) Three books in the writing and refining process.
Whaaat? I know, that was my reaction to God’s instruction too.
It has been remarkable to see Him breathe on the dreams that I have hidden for too long.
 
2) Another new thing is Listen and See Podcast Not sure why this thrills my soul, but please listen in.
We are talking about topics that matter with some of my favorite people.
 
3) This is SUPER early announcement, but Kingdom Access School is starting in August. Please stay tuned for more about this!
 
Where Credit is Due
I want to give a shout out to Caroline Ervin, Sarah Mason, Hailey Keene. These women have been incredible to serve and put strength into the workings of Greater Things. Also a shout out to Jessica Counts, Laura Jones, and Beth Hungerford for the unseen ways they serve the many activities. I want to give thanks to the GT Prayer Team for their incredible intercession. And finally, a shout out to Chad Brooks, Peter Simeone, and Joanna Simeone for beautifying and keeping GT grounds. This goes without saying, but I must shine the light on Chuck Spicka for rocking it as my co-heir. I love doing this with you with Him.
 
There are so many others who love, give, support my crazy, and benefit Greater Things. Thank you.
 
You know, maybe you could take a moment to just reach out to the people who help you be you. We really can’t say “thank you” enough. God is so gracious to connect us and help us link arms so that we might advance His Kingdom together.
 
Okay. My last thought.
 
This Christmas season, God has ever so kindly asked about my offering to Him. I know we are consumed with gift-giving to others. However, the wise men brought gifts of honor to the King.
 
The Lord has been breaking it down like this. He is offering me the presence of His Son, fresh and new every year, and what is my response? Will I leave my duties like the shepherds to go and see? Will I treasure what’s right in front of me like Mary and ponder all that God is? Will I bring my costly gifts like the wise men and lay them at His feet because I recognize that I all I need and long for is found in Him?
 
God gave me this beautiful phrase yesterday: Jesus gets personal when Jesus gets personal. Ask Him and respond to Him. I truly believe these acts of devotion are life-changing.
 
I bless you with a rich, full of glory Christmas.
With deep love,
Jana
 
P.S. Just in case you haven’t heard, our giving can now be done online at greater-things.org Thank you. Our ministry is 100% donor funded so we appreciate doing this part together too.

When Restlessness Produces New Fruit

On a regular basis I like to shake things up. No. It’s better said that I have to shake it up. If things get too static for too long I get a little crazy. Ask my mom. And my husband. Well, and my co-workers. My restlessness has prompted many a furniture rearrangement, get out of dodge adventures, and half-baked ministry projects.  What I love about this process is the daring, new experiments that are launched. Full disclosure, some of them crash and burn. Some of them fly high for a season. Some of them resemble oak trees that just continue to grow deep in roots and broad in reach.

Another truth to disclose, I never know what result they will be until they have left my hand. The artist’s plight, I guess.  But the Lord reminded me about a verse the other day. “The good tree produces good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17) I read this again and let out a deep, long sigh. Ah. There it is. Pressure is off.

It doesn’t say that every single branch will produce a perfect blossom that will produce a perfect fruit. Rather it says the good tree will produce good fruit. Overall, in an ongoing way, the natural behavior  of a good and healthy tree is it sprouts, blossoms and yields fruit from different branches at different times. It is the tree’s lifetime destiny. And the outcome of the fruit is not necessarily the point either. Some of that fruit falls to the ground and rots. Some feeds squirrels and us. Some fruit is replanted in far away places as the birds carry it away. But the tree, the good tree, firmly planted, just keeps producing fruit.

Before you ask… in God, we are good trees. One thing I have learned the hard way is God is Less interested in my 100% perfect outcomes and More interested in my 100% surrender. My “yes!” answer to Him really, really matters. It really impacts His heart. Your “yes” has the same affect. So today, just give Him a fresh “yes” and let Him pour His good, good love through you.

Here are a couple of the outpourings He and I have been playing with. Feel free to partake of new fruit!

A new podcast called Listen and See  and A Greater Things Christmas Eve 

When the Student is Ready…

the Master will appear.  It’s an old proverb that rings true every time.  What we see as devastation, I am convinced the Lord sees as a teaching opportunity.  The question is, are we willing to learn, to be taught, to change according to the revelation given.

As we continue to reflect on the goodness of the Lord in and through the 18 days, and the 10 years of freedom that followed, we see His hand of mercy and impeccable timing. We began the marital separation with simple instructions: work on your own junk.  I worked on my own heart. Chuck worked on his. The counselor (God bless his brave soul) told us to not think about the fate of the marriage until we had stabilized our own hearts. Selah.

Author and pastor, Danny Silk challenged the way we humans emotionally blow up our relationships with mates, kids, family and then immediately try to fix the problem and get back to normal. Silk said it is impossible to get “back to normal” when there is blood all over the walls from the last explosion. Instead he advised, just work on cleaning up the mess. Take the time needed to restore some measure of connection and THEN work on what caused the blow up in the first place.

In our situation, 18 years of dysfunction and mess, carelessness and resentment, and now so broken that we are separated, the outcome of the marriage was not the most important thing. Tending to our own hearts before the Lord was the most pressing.

And I couldn’t shake the suffocating panic.

If you know me, you know that I am a go-getter, risk-taker, charge the hill. But now I had been punched in the gut. I literally woke up in the middle of the night with dry heaves. I was so scared. Everything of importance in my life seemed to be teetering on the brink of an abyss, ready to fall at any moment.

What would happen to my house, my notion of family, the girls’ schooling, my own ministry, the relationships I had? In my conversations, either awake or dreaming, I would roll questions over and over, “how can I be safe now?” “What do I need to do to be safe?” “I don’t know how to go forward and feel safe.”

I cried out to the Lord, whose voice I knew very well, but this was unchartered territory.

” I am safe,”  He kept whispering.

“I know you are but I’m don’t FEEL safe. I don’t know what Chuck is going to do. I don’t know what is going to happen,” I said dismissing His truth.

“You are with me, I am safe,” He said.

This went on for three days and nights until his message came through loud and clear.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
    but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
Proverbs 29:25

The Master had spoken. And as the student, I had to learn this lesson.  I had to digest this word and let it go down into the innermost parts of my soul. It had to change me. And believe me, I was desperately ready for change. Are you there yet? Look at this verse broken down.

Fear of man:
Fear of others’ opinions, fear of looking good or stupid, fear of my team, my friends, my family’s approval or disapproval, fear of the church’s reactions, fear of bodily or emotional harm, fear of financial or social ruin

A snare:
A deadly bear claw hidden along the paths of life that once clamped there is no escape except by mutilation of caught limb or death

(How many of lose our lives over fear of other’s reactions)

Trust in the Lord:
Surrendering body, soul, and spirit to the One greater than me, leaning on, depending on, staking my whole life on His care

Kept safe:
Held in the loving, protecting arms of the God, the Savior, the  Lover who would never look away, never leave, never NOT defend me.

I am, was and would always be safe in His arms. End of story.

No matter the outcomes, the marriage, the children, the finances, the social implications, I was safe in Him. The rest of the 18 Days were radically changed by this revelation. I had a Truth greater than my feelings.

Ten years later, I see this deposit radically altered my future.

The Master is teaching us all the time.  Are we ready to learn?

The graphic somewhere seen on social media. Smile.

(janaspicka.com for previous blogs on the 18 Days)